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Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders: 7 Keys to the game

Happy Friday Broncos Country! Anyone else thinking ahead to the playoffs? First things first, here are the keys to defeating the lowly Raiders and clinching that #1 seed in the AFC.

Doug Pensinger

1) Contain Pryor

For whatever reason, the Raiders chose to run the read option less than a handful of times during their first meeting.  The couple of plays I found where Pryor kept it, the play side end crashed towards the middle and left him lots of space around the edge.  That is cardinal sin #1 against a team that runs the read option.  You have to maintain the edge and make that quarterback give that ball to his running back.

This isn't the only concern.  Pryor can pull the ball down and scramble with it.  Though the Broncos have played less man free this year than they did last, they will have to account for Pryor at all times.  Last time around, the Broncos used a combination of Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan to spy Pryor, this time I expect it to be Paris Lenon and Wesley Woodyard depending on what the Raiders dictate on offense.

2) Speed up the internal clock

Pryor on average takes a shade more than 3 seconds to make his decision and throw the ball.  That makes him one of the slower quarterbacks in the league from snap to release.  Pryor throws a nice ball and is athletic enough to make throws from uncomfortable spots.  The worst game I think I've seen Pryor play was against Kansas City and with good reason.  The rush got in his head.  He started to throw the ball earlier than necessary and the results were sloppy plays.  Even without Von Miller the Broncos should muster enough pass rush to make things uncomfortable for the young quarterback.

3) No big plays

The potential for big plays is always greater against a quarterback who goes off script.  Why?  Because they can buy extra time and distract folks in the secondary from their coverage responsibilities.   The Broncos did a great job of limiting the big play the last time around.  The only huge play offensively for the Raiders came when DRC got beat and Duke Ihenacho took him out of the play with a big hit.  It sprung Denarius Moore for a 73-yard touchdown.

When the Broncos choose to play Cover 1, they must keep a spy.  When they play zone, folks have to know their responsibilities.  It seems like common sense, but there have been plays almost every game coming from zone coverage where someone in the secondary has made a mistake.

4)  No turnovers

Last week the Broncos offense didn't commit a turnover for only the 3rd time this season.  Back in week 3, a strip sack of Peyton Manning, and a fumble by Montee Ball in garbage time both led to Raider touchdowns.  The Raiders are a bad team with inferior talent.  You level the playing field with turnovers, and more than that, you continue sloppy play heading into the playoffs by committing them.

5) Find Balance

Last week in Houston, the Broncos were averaging about 7 yards per carry but went through a stretch where almost every play was a pass play.  During that stretch, the Broncos went three and out three straight times.  There has to be some more balance.  The Manning passing game does much better when the playaction game is effective.  On the season the breakdown is pretty close to 60/40 in favor of the pass.  This seems like a pretty good number to shoot for.

6) No penalties along the offensive line

Too many last week, and too many in general.  This is a rare offense that has the ability to dig itself out of a 1st and 15/20 hole.  You face these situations often enough and you will fail to convert.  No false starts please.

7) Stay healthy

This game should be as close to a slam dunk as possible.  Just show up and play solid football and the Broncos should win going away.  In two weeks we will have a playoff game in our house, just make it to that point without another significant injury.  I suppose this is more a request to the football Gods than something the Broncos can control on their end.

My Prediction

The Raiders don't have enough talent on either side of the ball to compete right now.  It would take a meltdown of epic proportions for them to have a shot at winning this game.  Show up, play solid ball, and the Broncos win easily.

Broncos 31 Raiders 10