One team is undefeated through the first four weeks of the season, while the other has exceeded expectations with a young offensive nucleus. When the 4-0 Denver Broncos take on the 2-2 Oakland Raiders in a key AFC West game, we will see whether the Broncos undefeated run or the Raiders’ promising start to the season will be taken out.
Denver Broncos Dominating Difensively
NFL offenses have had one reason to be afraid more so than the rest through four weeks of games, and that reason is the Denver Broncos defense. Allowing a second best 17.2 points per game, the Broncos are suffocating teams by forcing turnovers and otherwise not allowing their opponents to score.
And Denver has needed to play that stellar defense to make up for what has been a lackluster performance on offense so far this season. The running back combination of CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman has been abysmal through four games, which has been especially problematic given that head coach Gary Kubiak has promoted a more run-oriented offense compared to their tactics in previous years.
Peyton Manning, meanwhile, has done an admirable job of passing proficiently despite noticeable declines in his arm strength that have made deep throws more challenging for him. He’s been precise on his short throws, though, allowing Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas to make runs after catches to put them in good positions.
Oakland Raiders Scoring In Bunches
Oakland Raiders football has not traditionally been associated with decent offensive production in recent years, but that is starting to change thanks to a great young core of skill players who have been able to change games with their speed and toughness without needing to touch the ball an extraordinary amount of times.
The Raiders are in the top ten in the NFL in passing yardage so far this year, thanks to the accuracy of Derek Carr, who has progressed by leaps and bounds from where he was last season when he looked lost for the majority of his snaps. A huge reason for that improvement is rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper, who provides Carr with a deep threat he simply didn’t have during Carr’s rookie campaign.
Add to that combination the potent rushing attack of Latavius Murray, and the Raiders have a triumvirate of offensive players that can make a difference, and they will have to make a difference against a loaded Broncos defense. Tight end Mychal Rivera will also need to be a reliable option for the Raiders, as he will need to be able to both block and leak out to catch passes as a safety valve for Carr when pressure is applied to the young quarterback.
Denver’s pass rush will put Carr under pressure throughout the game, and it will be up to Carr to evade that pressure and make good decisions while under duress. If he can do that, the Raiders have a chance to beat up on a limited Broncos offense and make this a suspenseful game. If not, though, Carr will be responsible for a tough day for his squad.
By: Jason M. Sanin