After taking some time to ponder the Broncos 41-14 shellacking of the Raiders on Monday night, I’ve tried to assess exactly what we can fairly takeaway from the Broncos performance. I have watched the game a second time and have determined that very few definitive conclusions can be drawn.
Did we see the reemergence of the Broncos as one of the elite teams in the NFL? Or…did we see a Raiders team that is simply not ready to compete at an NFL level? There are clearly indications of both.
The Broncos offense looked unstoppable. As the three Mikes repeatedly pointed out, Denver could pretty much do whatever they wanted to against the Raiders defense. The Broncos offense looked good; however, the Raiders defense also just looked plain bad. They were not able to get any pressure on Cutler. The scheme was incredibly simplistic. The penalties were frequent and senseless. They had several blown coverages. In short, they beat themselves as much as Cutler and the Broncos beat them. Nevertheless, I think there is little doubt at this point that the Broncos offense is the real deal; however, it will not be that easy all season.
The Broncos defense was questionable. The Raiders offense was often it’s own worst enemy. I think we really have learned little about the Broncos’ defense. They did not look particularly stout against the run. The Raiders frequently ran for over five yards on first and second down; on the other hand, the Broncos were undeniably stingier on third and fourth down and had a couple great stops. Either way, the run defense will clearly need to improve against a potent San Diego rushing attack on Sunday.
The Broncos pass defense was also suspect. Several times the Raiders had a wide open receiver get behind Denver’s coverage and the only thing that prevented an easy touchdown was a dropped pass or a slightly errant throw by Jamarcus Russell. The Broncos were able to get some pressure on Russell. They had two sacks and Russell was hurried most of the game. Once again, however, it is unclear if this is a sign of a Denver strength or an Oakland weakness. They made numerous unforced errors that they were simply unable to overcome.
In short, the Raiders are a mess. The coach hates the owner. The owner hates the coach. The coach hates the defensive coordinator. The defensive coordinator…well, you get the point. The team is very young at key positions and may have brought in a host of character concerns. Al Davis seems unwilling to allow Kiffin the discretion necessary to fully implement his vision and may not be willing to give him the time necessary either. Despite all of the preseason spending and optimism, the Raiders may very well still be the worst team in the NFL…perhaps by a significant margin.
This weekends match up against the Chargers will be a much more reliable test for this Denver Broncos team. It is extremely unlikely that San Diego will give Denver as much help as Oakland did in securing a victory. Denver’s defense will face a much more competent San Diego offense that will seek to exploit Denver’s shortcomings in rush defense and pass coverage. We will also face a defense that is significantly better. It is important that the Broncos and their fans do not become overconfident as they prepare for a Chargers team that will be a much better indication of how good the 2008 Broncos really are.