This is the first post in what will be an ongoing series this season dedicated to my viewpoint on the upcoming matchup in the week. This week's matchup is at Mile High against the Broncos who ended the season last year with a 4-12 record and the #2 pick in the 20110 NFL draft.
I'll break the matchups down after the jump.
It seems fitting to start off a series title "How I See It" with the viewpoints of various other football opinions. So without further ado, here is a breakdown of how the professionals think the game will go:
ESPN has 8 NFL experts with differing degrees of credibility when it comes to breaking down the game, from former Raider Eric Allen to Seth Wickersham (?) whose only qualifying characteristic seems to be that he graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in "I can write well." All 8 experts expect the Broncos to win the game. Even ESPN's special computer has the Raiders as a 1.5 point underdog, making it 0-9 against the Silver and Black.
CBSSports.com's list of experts is much shorter, boasting a paltry total of 5 experts making their picks in this week's NFL action. Of the 5 experts on the payroll for CBS affiliate, only one believes the Raiders have a chance to win the game--Pete Prisco. CBS - 1-4 Raiders/Broncos
Foxsports.com has an even shorter list of experts for their picks with only 4 men tossing the darts at the wall to come up with the winner. In this case, the Raiders once again have only 1 man backing the Silver and Black. Foxsports - 1-3 Raiders/Broncos
Sports Illustrated, in contrast to all other online media outlets, seems to employ only one man for the means of making predictions, Peter King. Scrolling through the list of games, one can see King expects a very close Raider victory with the Raiders coming out on top 21-20. Very close, but a (predicted) win is a (predicted) win. SI.com - 1-0 Raiders/Broncos.
If you bring all these predictions together, only 15.8% of the "experts" on 4 major sports websites expect the Raiders to come out on top in the first week of the season against a team that won only 4 games last year and were outscored by the Raiders by a combined 61 points last season.
As you read through a lot of these predictions, you see a lot of comments listing the Denver defense as a positive for the team. I'll go ahead and start here on my rant. Exactly who on this defense is a plus player? Champ Bailey. Check. Elvis Dumervil--coming off a season ending pectoral tear but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Check. Von Miller--everybody loves him. Everybody. We'll see what happens when we get into the game, but I'll concede until I have evidence to the opposite. Check. Who else do the Broncos have? Wesley Woodyard will likely start opposite Von Miller in place of the injured DJ Williams, weighing a whopping 229 lbs. In the middle you have the squatty Joe Mays who might mass a few tackles but doesn't make many stuffs,frequently makes the tackle 5 yards or further from the line of scrimmage and lacks the quickness to keep up with shifty backs.
On the defensive line, apart from the aforementioned Tasmanian devil, Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos will likely start Kevin Vickerson, Broderick Bunkley and Robert Ayers. Vickerson is a holdover from the porous defense last season, Bunkley is a fire hydrant of a man but can't translate that to good football play and Ayers on the far side of Elvis has a long ways to go to shake the bust label that has already been stamped on his forehead. Not a single one of these players tips the scales past 305 and 3 of them come in at or below 290 lbs.
In the secondary, apart from Champ Bailey, the Broncos have nothing but question marks. Andre Goodman's last good season was half a decade ago, Brian Dawkins provides a coach's IQ out there but lacks the speed to cover ground as a safety and rookie Rahim Moore is an untested first year who will be stuck in the bright lights of Monday Night Football in his first game in the NFL.
In regards to the Raiders' attack on the Broncos' defense, I would expect the Raiders to run right at Elvis Dumervil, whatever side he lines up on. Elvis is great at rushing the passer, but the Broncos give up a great deal of size when they have him on the field. I expect coaches Hue Jackson and Al Saunders to take the second ranked rushing offense and shove it down the throat of the weak side of that defense the undersized Elvis and Wesley Woodyard behind him. I also expect plenty of screens and swing passes to the side of the field. This will negate any playmaking rookie Von Miller might have on the other side of the defense as well as allowing Elvis' aggressiveness to take him out of the game while this scheme plays to the strengths of the Raiders offensive line with Veldheer and Wiz II leading the way. In the secondary, I expect the Raiders to have a field day on anybody not covered by Champ Bailey. Remember, this is the defense that gave up 98 points in 2 games to the Raiders, there's not a whole lot to get excited about on this side of the ball for Denver. This team is far removed from the days of the Orange Crush and it will take much longer than a few weeks of training camp for coach John Fox to fix the D.
On the other side of the ball, the Broncos field a sub-par QB who experienced inflated statistics due to a gimmicky offense installed by former head coach Josh McDaniels. While Orton's numbers looked relatively nice, if you watched the games, Orton just didn't pass the sniff test. Rounding out the backfield, the Broncos are expected to field a "lightning and thunder" two-headed rushing attack with McGahee and Moreno. However, it might be better to call it "zap and clap" as Moreno finds himself heading into his 3rd season in the NFL with a giant BUST label stamped to his butt. Truth be told, Knowson Moreno just hasn't done anything in the league to merit a starting position at running back, amassing 80 yards in a game just 3 times last year. The other side of that coin is the worn and broken down Willis McGahee who can be an effective goalline back but lacks any real burst due to his knee injuries.
A quick look at the offensive line reveals a team that gave up 40 sacks last year and features just one above average player--the talented Ryan Clady. Even their Pro Bowl left tackle struggled last year due to a difficult time recovering from a bad injury that ended his 2009 season. The rest of the Denver offensive line is unimpressive and very youthful. Expect the Raiders disruptive defensive line to win the battle consistently in the trenches, spending much of their time in the Denver backfield in the face of McGahee, Moreno and Orton.
Although the home field advantage may have some of an impact, in the end, the Broncos just don't have the talent to match the Oakland Raiders. Expect the men in Silver and Black to take the wind out of the home crowd early and the Raiders should be able to walk away with this one.