Good morning, Broncos Country.
After half a season of football, the Denver Broncos sit a top the AFC West with their bitter rival the Oakland Raiders with a 6-2 record. They will have the opportunity to gain sole possession of the division lead in four days when they head to the Black Hole and embark on an important gridiron journey on Sunday Night Football.
If you would have told me the Broncos would be where they are at halfway through the season, I would have been surprised. The team boasts and exceptional roster and a tremendous coaching staff, but with the quality of opponents they have faced early on, it was hard to believe the Broncos were going to win six out of their first eight games.
The teams' strength this year has undoubtedly been their defense, which is on pace for another incredible year and heated up tremendously against the San Diego Chargers last weekend. The Broncos are going to need the vaunted No Fly Zone and the rest of their crew on defense to play at a high level if they desire to capture the division and make a splash in the playoffs.
Moreover, the team will need to see demonstrable improvement from their offense, especially quarterback Trevor Siemian and the offensive line in the second half of the season. While there were some bright moments for the unit (the Cincinnati Bengals game comes to mind), the overall impact and consistency of the offense was a huge question mark and a detriment to the team's overall efficacy through the first eight games.
The biggest challenge of the year happens against the Raiders this Sunday, and also provides the biggest opportunity for the team to take over the reigns of the AFC West and have control of the division and their destiny.
It's familiar territory for Denver and Head Coach Gary Kubiak is aware of the challenges Oakland and the hostile environment they are entering will bring.
"I think the guys know, they understand, first off, what it’s like to play there. We all know the atmosphere, how tough it is to play, but the fact that they’ve got a really good football team," stated Kubiak. "They’re sitting here at the top of the division with us, playing extremely well, and to come back and win the game that they won… Probably the biggest football team we’ll play," he went on to add.
The formula to victory against the Raiders will be improved play for the Broncos in the trenches. The defense will have to get after Derek Carr, who is having a breakout season in his third-year. He has already thrown for over 2,200 yards and has 17 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions and is quietly earning whispers of MVP honors if he is able to sustain that caliber of play in the second half of the season.
Offensively, the Broncos will need Russell Okung, Donald Stephenson and the rest of their offensive lineman to do much better than they did last year against the Raiders' pass rush, specifically Khalil Mack who caused a wealth of problems for them, in particular guard Michael Schofield who allowed four sacks in only one game in 2015.
"They’re moving the ball; the quarterback is playing extremely well. You all know the problems we had with their pass rushers last year so it’s a big, big challenge and it’s a big game early in the second half of the season," remarked Kubiak.
Brace yourselves Broncos Country — the biggest game of the year for our beloved franchise is right on the horizon. The stakes are huge, and there would be no better momentum builder for the team than to destroy the Raiders on the road in prime time on Sunday Night Football.
As always, thank you for reading and here is today's offering of Horse Tracks.
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