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Broncos-Raiders preview: Denver needs to dominate the running game

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For the Broncos to improve to 3-1 they need to run the ball and make sure Oakland does not.

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

There isn’t much that gets the blood as hot as Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders.

The old-school rivalry seems to bring out the inner hatred for fan bases of both organizations. From the Jan. 1, 1978 AFC Championship Game at Mile High Stadium to the debacle at the hands of a coach who won’t be named here, you always know to expect a little more when these two teams smash helmets.

Broncos Country, it’s officially Raider Hater Week.

What makes Sunday’s game even more exciting is the fact both teams think they’re contenders. It started last season for the first time in 15 years and it’s carried over to this year. So on top of everything else this game brings, it actually means a lot to how this season unfolds for both teams.

Both the Broncos and Raiders enter Sunday’s game at 2-1 and on the heels of tough losses. So on top of everything else, both teams will enter emotional and want to prove the week prior was a fluke. Brace yourselves, this could turn out to be a classic game in this classic rivalry.

Offensive Rankings

Oakland: 23rd in overall offense (299 yards), 15th in rushing (107), 24th in passing (192) and ninth in points (27).

Denver: 11th in overall offense (355.7 yards), 3rd in rushing (143), 20th in passing (212.7) and eighth in points (27.3).

Defense Rankings

Oakland: 26th in overall defense (364.3 yards), 20th in rushing (112.3), 23rd in passing (252) and tied for 14th in points (21).

Denver: Fourth in overall defense (263 yards), first in rushing (59.7), 10th in passing (203.3) and 16th in points (21.3).

Here are the keys to victory for the Broncos on Sunday and improving to 3-1.

Run the damn football

As the stats show above, Denver is the No. 3 rushing offense in the NFL. We saw through the first two games of the season what an offense looks like and is capable of when it has balance. The opposing defense is on its heels and doesn’t know what Mike McCoy will call. That also was a huge reason the Broncos were so good on third down and in the red zone the first two weeks. They were methodical, kept drives alive, ate time of possession and scored touchdowns.

Then McCoy and the other coaches decided to change it up against the Buffalo Bills. They must have figured what worked the first two weeks wouldn’t work in Buffalo, so Denver threw the ball 40 times. Even though the running game was still effective, when it was called. The Broncos finished with 111 yards rushing, on only 17 carries from C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles. That stat line just will not cut it; especially when Denver enters with the No. 1 rushing offense in the NFL.

That’s akin to turning on “The Joy of Painting” and seeing Bob Ross doing an abstract. It makes no damn sense.

As Adam Malnati and I said on the Mile High Report Radio Podcast, for the Broncos to win on Sunday, they need to do what they do best on offense. As it turns out, that’s also an aspect Oakland isn’t good at defensively, as we all saw on Sunday Night Football in D.C. The Washington Redskins finished with 116 yards on 34 carries for an eye-popping 38 minutes, 6 seconds in time of possession. Denver does that, it wins. - Ian St. Clair

Menelik Watson vs. Khalil Mack

This is going to be a matchup nightmare that will keep McCoy up all week. Watson is getting annihilated in pass protection. In three games, he has allowed six sacks, two quarterback hits, six hurries and 14 total pressures. And he is going up against Mack who already has two sacks, a quarterback hit, six hurries and nine total pressures. The Broncos have got to bring help Watson's way or Trevor Siemian may not make it out of this game healthy. - Tim Lynch

Stop the Run

The Raiders depend on the run to open up their pass game. Derek Carr has historically struggled to throw successfully against the Broncos defense, so if the defense can continue their incredible success against the run Denver should have a chance to come out on top.

The Broncos run defense is the NFL's best right now, giving up just 59.7 yards per game and also a league-best 2.6 yards per carry. And it's not like teams aren't trying to run on them, they are. Meanwhile, the Raiders sport a healthy 4.7 yard per-carry average on the ground, so something is going to have to give. - Tim Lynch

Does Denver pull a Buffalo?

Imagine if Denver does the same thing that Buffalo did to Von Miller ... Just don't block Mack. That doesn't require Siemian to do much other than read a receiver quickly, which he was fine at the first two weeks. The Raiders secondary is not the Bills secondary. Their linebackers are bonkers though. Siemian depends on his tight ends too much to leave them in to block. It literally caused him to take a second longer to throw, I bet. - Ian Henson

Trevor Siemian vs Karl Joseph

Second-year safety Karl Joseph has been a bright spot on an otherwise pretty lackluster Raiders secondary. And if anyone in the Raiders' secondary is going to give Siemian fits, it'll be Joseph. There's a natural tactical competition between safeties and quarterbacks, and the result of one beating the other is often a long touchdown pass or an interception depending on who came out on top. This matchup is where we'll most likely see big plays for good or ill on Sunday, and it will go a long way toward determining the outcome of the game. - Taylor Kothe

What are your keys to victory for the Broncos?