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Broncos D ready to 'conquer' Raider Nation in renewed rivalry

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It's been a while since those Raiders were better than below average, and at 2-2 and second in the AFC West, this Oakland team has renewed hope for finally beating the Broncos. But that's not going to happen.

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Good morning, Broncos Country!

Wow, what a week. So much time spent talking about our QB, I'm afraid we have not properly prepared for Rivalry Week with my most-hated team in the AFC West - the Raiduhs!

I know the Chiefs are tops on the list for many fans here, but it's always been the Raiders for me (especially after having to get a police escort out of McAfee Coliseum when Jake Plummer and the 2006 Broncos beat the Raiders 17-13 with comeback scores in the fourth quarter).

But never fear, Broncos fans, I took one for the team on Twitter yesterday and did my best to get ready for this showdown in Oakland. I don't pick fights on Twitter; I always save for the pros (like BroncoMike - RIP my good man). But when I tweeted the Broncos' graphic (that sadly incorrectly says Charles Woodson was drafted by the Packers) all hell broke loose...or at least Oakland, which is pretty much the same thing.

That led to a ton of arguments over which team is better. Somehow Raiders fans think that because we've only won two Super Bowls (to their three), we are clearly inferior - despite their last SB win being the year The A-Team, UB40 and Ghostbusters were all popular.

As is generally the case, the poor grammar made the argument difficult to continue:

Finally, I just settled on the facts:

But fun trash-talking aside, this is not the same irrelevant Raiders team we've played the last three (or more) years. In fact, if you were asking fans as well as Vegas, this matchup is considered to be a lot closer than many of us would like to admit.

"Sports bettors aren't buying into this team," said Zach Jones of Sports Book Review, adding that the spread dropped from 6 points to 4.5 during the week. "They're not buying 'defense wins championships' rhetoric."

That's just fine. This defense has been proving doubters wrong all season, and even Jones believes the Broncos pass rushers and secondary will be too much for Derek Carr and the Raiders while Manning and the Broncos offense will be able to overcome an "anemic" Oakland defense.

You have to think the Raiders will give Manning some trouble, but Peyton knows this is a game he can't afford to lose. The Raiders have the hype, but they haven't proved themselves.   -Zach Jones, Sports Book Review

"You have to think the Raiders will give Manning some trouble, but Peyton knows this is a game he can't lose," Jones said. "The Raiders have the hype but at 2-2 with losses to the Bears and wins over only the Browns and Ravens, they haven't proved themselves."

Jack Del Rio and the Raiders will certainly be looking to do that when they host the Broncos Sunday. With an improved sophomore quarterback in Carr plus rookie standout Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray in the backfield, the Raiders have some scoring weapons. Anemic or not, the Raiders defense still boasts Khalil Mack, who will be gunning for Manning all day - something Coach Gary Kubiak plans to avoid.

"The biggest thing is hopefully you're not protecting against him all day," Kubiak said, adding that getting down against the Raiders and having to throw every play is going to mean trouble. "[Mack] is a heck of a player and very versatile. We've got our work cut out for us."

So hopefully that elusive Broncos running game will show even more improvement than it did last week, which offensive coordinator Rick Dennison expects given the gradual improvement every week.

"I think the guys are just getting a little bit better. We're still climbing on there. We've still got a ways to go. If they keep growing together and understanding, I think we'll be in good shape," Dennison said. "Obviously we know we need to improve. We know we need to get better."

Since the Raiders haven't been all that good at covering tight ends, it's possible the Broncos will showcase Virgil Green and Owen Daniels a little more. But don't expect Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to just be decoys.

"We're trying to find holes no matter what. We've got a good set of receivers, obviously very good. We're trying to spread the ball. We're trying to find our creases wherever they are," Dennison said. "We've got our set of plays, we'll keep working on what we need to do and try and get 18 to give the ball to everybody - whoever is open."

But whether it is running backs, wide receivers or tight ends, Dennison said an emphasis this week has been being better on first downs.

"You address being really good on first down because second-and-10 stinks," Dennison said. "You want to have a little bit better play selection. Second-and-5 is a heck of a lot better than second-and-10. ...We'll keep pressing and make them defend the entire field. That's what we're trying to do."

The Broncos defense on the other hand will be trying to do the opposite - keeping Murray and Cooper locked in tight. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips noted that super-tacklers like Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan will be a key to stopping anything that moves downfield.

"Well, we have two guys in the middle that I think are really good tacklers," said Phillips. "Marshall is making a lot of plays and Trevathan. Both of those guys are sure-tacklers; they're after the football every play and they play the way we like them to play."

Getting to play "the way he likes to play" is definitely how safety T.J, Ward feels about being on this defense.

"Coach Wade has been putting great game plans together," said Ward. "He's using me exactly how I wish to be used, so I'll just keep listening to Joe Woods and Coach Wade."

The AFC Defensive Player of the Week and also East Bay native is excited to play "in his crib" this week.

"I love playing at home in the Bay Area," said Ward. "I seem to play some really good football when I go home. I'm really looking forward to it."

Raiders quarterback Carr may not be looking forward to having Ward, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware breathing down his neck Sunday, but all three defenders praised the young QB.

"He's a better quarterback than he was last year. You can see it. He's poised. He makes a lot of quick decisions. He's not holding the ball for four, five seconds," Miller said. "He's starting to become the quarterback that I think they drafted."

Ware believes Carr's quickness at getting the ball off will be their biggest challenge.

The key word is quick. That's how he really gets the ball off. He's progressed a lot from last year, and he's that all-around quarterback that can string plays out.  -DeMarcus Ware on Derek Carr

"The key word that you just said is, 'quick.' That's how he really gets the ball off. He's progressed a lot from last year and he's that all-around quarterback that can string plays out, but he's versatile," Ware said of Carr. "First of all, you have to stop the run, that's what we mainly try to do on defense, and we have to get pressure on him when it's passing situations."

Either way, Ward knows the Broncos will need to be ready for anything on Sunday.

"They're kind of up and down, and you have to be ready for whatever team you get," Ward said. "You can't be just lackadaisical because then they'll hit you with a big play, and we all know that big plays wins games, so you can lose a game quickly in the NFL. We just have to be on our P's and Q's."

Miller also preaches "focus" against this Raiders team.

"We've just got to go in there and play our defense," Ward said. "They're going to make some catches, we've just got to be there. We've got to be on our own, create some turnovers and just be the same type of defense that we've been. We'll be alright."

Take that, Vegas.

Horse Tracks

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With help from Denver-based trainer Loren Landow and a pair of former Broncos players, defensive end Derek Wolfe never strayed too far from the game. Jack Del Rio represents a villain to Broncos fans. He coaches the Oakland Raiders, for starters, and anger remains after his decision not to let Chris Harris guard slot receiver T.Y. Hilton in a playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

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Oakland coach Jack Del Rio talks about Broncos' Peyton Manning - The Denver Post
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And Elway called it 'good' | High Altitude
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