For the 6-2 Denver Broncos, the Black Hole beckons.
The Broncos have not been a good road team this year - they're 1-2 on the road, and their one win was a tough outing against the New York Jets. While the Raiders' home field advantage isn't quite what it used to be over the last few years, it will still prove to be a test for the 2014 Broncos that have only really dominated anybody on their home turf.
"Obviously when you play a divisional opponent on the road, historically, you just don't look at records," Broncos coach John Fox said. "So I think our guys will approach it that way this week, and it'll be a huge challenge."
"It's a long football season, and every single week has its own challenges," said QB Peyton Manning. "Anytime you're coming off a loss, your job is to study the next opponent and also study what you have to do to get better as a team.
"I think every week is gut-check time in my opinion," Manning said.
The Broncos will travel to face a Raiders team whose offense isn't quite firing on all cylinders, but whose defense and special teams have proven to be a worthy gut-check to opposing teams.
LB Khalil Mack
The Oakland Raiders' top draft pick is paying dividends in every way but the sack department, but that could change anytime. Mack has 23 hurries and seven QB hits on the season, according to Pro Football Focus, including a six-hurry, two-hit performance just last week. But he has not registered a sack yet in 2014.
"He plays much the same role as we use Von (Miller)," said Broncos coach John Fox. "He plays strong outside on under or weak outside on over and then defensive end on some downs. I know a lot has been made that he hasn't had a sack, but I think he might lead the league in holding penalties versus him. He's tremendous and a guy that we're very aware of."
QB Derek Carr
It's important to have a short memory in the NFL, and this rookie QB is proving to have just that. After throwing two first half interceptions against the Seahawks a week ago, helping put his team behind 24-3 at halftime, Carr bounced back. He led his team on two second half touchdown drives that included a 4th down touchdown pass, floated to the back of the end zone, with pressure in his face. Carr has been good but not great by NFL standards, but by rookie standards, he's probably been the NFL's best this year.
RBs Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew
As Jeff Legwold notes, the Raiders have not been good in the first halves of games, and the running game has suffered because of it.
The Raiders have been outscored 122-50 in the first half of games this season and they are last in the league in rushing yards (529), carries (150), carries per game (18.8) and rushing touchdowns (2).
Darren McFadden has just 358 rushing yards at the season's halfway point (3.7 avg.) while Maurice Jones-Drew has only added 54 yards on the season (2.1 avg.). Still, the Broncos are prepared for the Raiders to try and run the ball to keep Peyton Manning on the sideline.
"I think they will try to run it," said Chris Harris Jr. "I think their coaches are going to want to try and keep the ball away from our offense."
Matchups to Watch
Raiders secondary vs. Broncos receivers
The Oakland Raiders' defensive backs have been a shuffling mess most of the season, by the looks of it, and things don't look to be improving for them. They had four cornerbacks listed on the injury report Wednesday, with three players not practicing, including starting cornerback Carlos Rogers. D.J. Hayden got the start for Rogers last week and did okay; meanwhile, veteran safety (and Manning's 1998 draft classmate) Charles Woodson is probably made of the stuff as Ultron.
#Raiders S Charles Woodson, 38 years old, leads his team in snap counts with 592. He's played every defensive snap for his team except one.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 6, 2014
On paper, the Raiders' banged-up secondary will have a hard time keeping up with Manning's host of weapons in Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas, but this same unit did a pretty good job of keeping Russell Wilson busy last week. Just like last week, it'll be imperative their pass rush gets to Manning to disrupt his throws and big play opportunities.
Raider special teams vs. Broncos' not-so special teams
Last week, the Broncos missed a 41-yard field goal, had a number of sloppy kickoff returns, and allowed the Patriots a punt return for a touchdown.
Last week, the Raiders blocked a Seahawks punt for a touchdown and had a pretty good day on returns, hauling back five punts and kickoffs for a total of 121 yards (52 yards on three punts, 69 on three kickoffs).
It sounds like some extra special teams reps are in order for the Broncos this week.
Stick around Mile High Report all week long for film studies, statistical analyses, and many more in-depth looks at Denver's Week 10 opponent, the Oakland Raiders. What is your Matchup to Watch?
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