Howdy, Nation. Horseswild here.
You should be thrilled. The last time I stopped by here to field your questions was in 2010, right before a historically bad 59-14 butt-whipping that basically no one, including me or any Broncos fan saw coming. Oakland forced quick turnovers, stormed out to a monster lead and never looked back.
But I've had just enough time to heal my pride, so I'm back with four absolutely critical areas of focus for each team on Monday night.
Keys to Victory
- Protect Peyton. Superstar LT Ryan Clady is gone for the year. Backup Chris Clark has never inspired the Broncos faithful, and we're positively sick that he not only has to play, but that it'll be for the rest of the season. Clark will get help from tight ends and chips from RBs, but he needs a strong game to make Denver stop holding it's breath.
- Follow the game plan. Run it in two-tight end sets. Play-action pass to force an extra DB. Saddle up for the three-wide, hurry-up bomb show.
- Cut the penalties. The Broncos were flagged 13 times for 132 yards against NYG. This is a surefire way to give an opponent an extra chance to beat you.
- Find a way to zone. Broncos DBs are leading the league in pass break-ups at 26, with no other team more than 18. In man coverage the Broncos are superb, specifically Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and the fantastic Chris Harris Jr. In zone, however, tight end passes, underneath routes and quick passes are shredding the Broncos.
- Takeaways, takeaways, takeaways. If Oakland can force turnovers, this is anyone's game. Peyton hasn't thrown a pick yet this year, so he's bound to start gambling in coverage. He trusts Julius Thomas a whole lot, despite the fact he's only played in two games. He'll throw jumps to Demaryius every week. There will be opportunities, but not many. RBs Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball have both had recent fumbling issues. I'd be preaching rips, tears, smacks, pokes, and grabs all week.
- Run the ball. The Broncos offense can't get into a rhythm if it doesn't have the ball. And it's just early enough in the season that the Broncos aren't yet firing on all cylinders offensively. What, after scoring 90 points in two games? Yep. Only 24 of those points were scored in the first halves of the first two games. Give them a chance to get firing, and it'll turn into a track meet. But, if the Raiders can steadily move the chains on the ground, they'll disrupt Denver's offensive momentum. It won't be easy - Denver has only allowed 90 yards rushing total through two games, top mark in the league.
- Wreak havoc on Chris Clark. Without knowing it, this guy is probably the most important player in the whole game. If I'm Oakland, I throw the kitchen sink at this guy. If you're going to go out swinging, swing hard at the weakest link. That's definitely Clark.
- Mix up coverage. We've heard about how teams try to disguise coverage and use trickery and confusion to force Manning into mistakes. I don't know if this is necessarily the best defense, because, as the cliche goes, "he's seen it all." I've watched Manning closely for about 20 games now, and a very obvious trend has started. Once he figures out the defense's game plan, he shreds it. Dennis Allen should have a first half game plan, and a completely different scheme at halftime. It sounds crazy, but I can't tell you the number of games that have looked close in the first half, only to turn into doozies in the second half. Don't give him a chance to figure you out.
Thanks for reading, gents.
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