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Broncos vs Raiders preview: What to watch for, storylines, match-ups

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The Oakland Raiders sit at 0-8 ready to welcome the 6-2, AFC West leading Denver Broncos to town for their first of two match-ups this season. Here's what you need to know.

Legends collide

Peyton Manning and Charles Woodson were chosen three spots away from each other in the 1998 draft -- Manning number one overall to the Colts, Woodson went number four overall to the Raiders. Now with both in the twilight of their Hall of Fame careers, while continuing to perform at a high level, each meeting between the two could be their last.

The accolades for both a many. Woodson has eight Pro Bowls and three All Pros under his belt along with a Defensive Player of the Year award and a Super Bowl ring. Manning is a 13-time Pro Bowler and 7-time All Pro, 5-time league MVP, and one Super Bowl ring. Between them that's 21 Pro Bowls, 10 All Pros, 6 All League awards, and 2 Super Bowl rings. That's a lot of hardware. Enjoy these kind of meetings while they're here. They will stand on the stage at the Hall of Fame together some day.

Road worriers

As good as the Broncos have been this season, most of that success has come at home. They are 5-0 at home this season but just 1-2 coming down from their Mile High horse. Their only win came against the now 1-win New York Jets (yes, that one win came against the Raiders). Those two losses have come against the Chargers and Patriots which so happen to be the two teams the Raiders have played the toughest this season. It might not mean a whole lot, but the Raiders need every advantage they can get and with a sold out game at O.co this Sunday, it looks like they gain a little homefield advantage.

The Full Montee?

Broncos former second round pick running back, Montee Ball has missed the past four games with a groin injury. He returned to practice this week and is officially questionable for the game. He reported has long 20 pounds in the meantime to get back to his college playing weight when he was the best running back in the country out of Wisconsin.

If Ball can go, it gives the Broncos are pretty decent 1-2 punch along with Ronnie Hillman who has been the starter in Ball's absence. In the past four weeks since taking over the starting job, he has tow 100-yard games.

Ware/Miller vs Penn/Watson

The Broncos feature the best pass rushing duo in the NFL in DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller. Between them they have 17.0 sacks on the season. It's the first such combo the Raiders offensive tackles Donald Penn and Menelik Watson have faced this season. Derek Carr hasn't been sacked a lot this season and when he has, most of that pressure has come from the right side. But it's the left side that will be under the most pressure in this one which gives Donald Penn his toughest test of the season.

Cut out the middle man

For the second straight week, the Raiders face a team who's regular starting middle linebacker is out. This week it's Nate Irving who will miss the game with a knee injury. The two most likely to replace him at middle linebacker are either Steven Johnson or Lamin Barrow. Johnson is the most experienced of the two, with four starts this season -- the only starts of his three-year career. Barrow is a fifth round rookie with two starts under his belt.

Last week for the Seahawks is was undrafted rookie, Brock Coyle making his first ever start and it didn't matter. They were not able to take advantage of it.

Mack's first crack at Manning

Raiders rookie linebacker Khalil Mack is a man of few words. But back at the Rookie premiere in June, Mack was asked who he most looked forward to sacking, which he didn't hesitate in naming one number 18 for his new division rival Broncos.

"I think that has to be Peyton (Manning) right now," said Mack. "Just thinking about it gets you a little (excited), you know what I mean?"

It makes it all the more inticing for Mack considering he has yet to get a sack this season. To get his first sack against the one guy he most looked forward to taking down would be something very special.

Running down the drain

The Raiders are the worst running team in the NFL. They don't run the ball a lot and when they do, they don't go far. Starter Darren McFadden is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry (which is actually up from his average the past two seasons), Maurice Jones-Drew has been completely ineffective and averaged just 2.1 yards per carry. All the while Marcel Reece and Latavius Murray haven't hardly touched the ball.

Much of the problem has been the early leads the Raiders are giving up in games. They've been outscored 122-50 in the first half this season which has caused them to try and play catch-up. Usually that means going to the air. It's the reason the Raiders pass to run ratio is 2/1.

TJ or DJ vs PM?

Raiders standout seventh round rookie, T.J. Carrie is questionable for the game. He replaced Carlos Rogers at cornerback last week while D.J. Hayden came in the game in nickel situations. Rogers is still out and how healthy Carrie is will decide if he again starts or if Hayden gets his first start of the season. Hayden showed a lot of potential last week when he had two near interceptions in the game along with some tight coverage. He also looked more physical than he was early last season. He was unable to put it all together, but one can attribute that to rust. He had just come off the PUP list two weeks prior and had only played 5 snaps on defense the previous week.

If both TJ and DJ can take the field, they will have their work cut out for them. Mainly because they're facing Peyton Manning, but also he has some pretty good receivers -- Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders chief among them.

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