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Broncos at Raiders Preview: Peyton Manning should attack the Raiders secondary

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Oakland Raiders
Sunday, October 11, 2015 - 2:25 PM MDT
Denver Broncos

AVG. YDS (RNK)

TEAM CATEGORY

AVG. YDS (RNK)

10th Pass Off. 25th
22nd Rush Off. 29th
31st Pass Def. 1st
11th Rush Def. 8th
2-2 Oakland Colosseum, Oakland, CA 4-0
T-2nd AFC West Spread: Broncos by 4.5 1st AFC West

The Denver Broncos travel to face the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, October 11th. The Raiders are a surprising 2-2 thanks in large part to an efficient passing attack from Derek Carr to Amari Cooper. The connection has helped the Raiders offense in both the run game and opening things up underneath.

You might be surprised, but the difference between that 10th ranked passing offense and the Broncos 25th ranked is about 12 sacks. Manning actually has more passing yards than Carr, but those sacks are pretty much sacking the Broncos offensive statistics.

For the Broncos, it's all about that defense anyway. It's first or nearly first in every feasible pass coverage or pass rush category, with the only weak link being those inside rushing lanes as we saw from both Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles busting long touchdown runs inside.

This very well might be the Raiders best chance to beat the Broncos since the Tim Tebow or Kyle Orton era. Even so, I am doubtful that Peyton Manning will let this game get away from him.

Strength against weakness

Here are some of the bigger match-ups to watch in this weeks game between the Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos that we'll need to keep an eye on.

Peyton Manning vs. Raiders secondary

The Raiders secondary is absolutely terrible. They are ranked 31st in yards, but when it comes to points they are by far the worst pass defense in the NFL. If Manning isn't able to get things going against the Raiders this week, he likely isn't ever going to "get things going" in 2015.

Former first round feel good story, D.J. Hayden, has been used and abused this year in coverage. He will be facing a matchup nightmare against Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, so Manning has got to make the throws this week. Because those guys are going to be open.

Raiders run defense vs. Broncos rushers

The Raiders have been fairly stout against the run, but I suspect that is due to teams being able to throw the ball at will against them. I recall the Broncos defense once being stout against the run only to give up 378 yards per game through the air. In any case, the Broncos must continue to work on their run game, because it is still in such a state of flux. The offensive line needs more time blocking together, Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson need to figure out who is actually going to be the featured back and Gary Kubiak needs to continue making the decisions in practice that keeps the progress moving in a positive direction.

The guy certainly looks like it could be Hillman for now as he was able to bump up his yards per carry from under 4 yards per attempt to 4.9 yards per attempt with 39 rushes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Anderson has 43 carries for 117 yards at a disappointing 2.7 yards per attempt. I think these designed sweeps are a perfect setup for Hillman, even if the play is a boom or bust kind of play.

Broncos pass rush vs. Raiders offensive line

Carr has only hit the dirt five times in 2015, half the number of times Manning has been dropped. Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware - along with the other 12 or so guys who have a sack this year - will need to harass and pressure Carr in this game. If they can, Carr is prone to making those costly mistakes.

The Minnesota Vikings proved a bit last week that if the pass rush is less than effective, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr can be exposed by the more speedy wide receivers in the NFL.

The Broncos have the advantage here either way as they are averaging 4.5 sacks per game and are forcing negative yardage from opposing offenses a whooping 15% of snaps through four games. That's a big number and this defense is a big freaking deal. It certainly feels good to say that.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that the Broncos offense should have plenty of opportunities to be successful in this game. There are still so many questions about the offensive line, the running backs and, of course, Peyton Manning, but this is a matchup that favors all of the talent the Broncos have on offense. They should score above their average on the season.

With the defense playing at such an elite level, this game should be the Broncos first curb stomping. However, I'm unwilling to set myself up to expect that. The offense is too unpredictable and unreliable for any game to be considered an "easy win".