To win the division, the Oakland Raiders know they have to knock off the king. That means the Denver Broncos. How can they do it?
Feed Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew
They say running the ball has no real place in the NFL anymore. That is absolutely untrue. For teams willing to commit to it, a steady rushing attack has loads of benefits. For the Oakland Raiders when they play the Broncos, it will be about two factors. First they will want to control twin pass rushers Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, not allowing them to pin their ears back and go full steam. Second, it controls the clock and most importantly keeps that record-setting Broncos offense on the sideline. Despite reservations about their age or injury history, Oakland cannot be afraid to feed the football to their new tandem of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew.
Dating back to 2011, the Raiders have lost five-straight games to the Broncos. Looking at the box scores and play-by-play, an interesting trend surfaced. In four of those five contests, Denver scored the first points. One of the most difficult things in any sport is having to play from behind. Head coach Dennis Allen can’t afford to play conservative against a high octane team like that. To beat them means to put them down early and force them to mount a comeback. Very often that can lead to hurried mistakes.
Hit Demaryius Thomas and the other receivers
Linebacker Bobby Wagner was frank in his analysis of the Broncos following the drubbing his Seattle Seahawks gave them in the Super Bowl. He said from the very beginning Denver looked scared on offense. They weren’t willing to brave the physicality, to take the hits over the middle. Indeed every loss the Broncos suffered in 2013 were against teams that played tough man-to-man coverage. So if the Oakland Raiders want to follow that trend, they’ll have to channel their predecessors of the John Madden era and be willing to risk a few flags in order to set the tone. Demaryius Thomas and that outstanding receiving corps but feels as uncomfortable as possible.
Attack Peyton Manning
It pretty much goes with any quarterback but is especially true here. If the Raiders can’t find a way to get to Peyton Manning, they will lose. Period. There is no argument or discussion. The 38-year old is a four-time MVP and led the best offense in history last year. Letting him stand comfortable in a pocket is a death wish for a defense. Oakland invested a lot of money to improve their pass rush with veterans Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley and spending a 1st round pick on Khalil Mack. Those three must team together to harass the future Hall of Famer as much as possible.
Otherwise he will wear them and the rest of the Raiders out again.