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1. How much of the Broncos success of late been Brock Osweiler? Is he leading the team to wins or simply managing the game?
Make no mistake: Brock Osweiler is managing the offense. He's not being asked to throw 40 times a game. He isn't making the tough sideline throws and throwing deep a lot. His #1 job is to do his best to make progress in game without giving the ball to the other team.
That being said, his play and management of the offense is a huge reason why the Broncos were able to down New England and get back to winning. Peyton's INTs were killing the team as he was throwing an average of just over 2 INTs per game this season. Also the run game wasn't working with Peyton because he needed to be back in pistol and shotgun. Having Brock under center makes everything tick for the running game and with 170 yards per game rushing in the past 3 games, you can tell it is helping a great deal in that arena.
2. Do you see the team going back to Peyton Manning for their playoff run or sticking with Osweiler?
I don't see it...not if they keep playing good football. The scheme changes are too much and they make the offense a liability in a big way. They lose running production and become completely predictable in the passing game. I can see the Broncos trying to let Manning play maybe the last week of the season if he's ready just to get his record or see if it is something they can manage, but I really don't think he's coming back.
3. The Broncos have been pretty injury riddled this year. How are they overcoming those injuries to still pull out wins?
Great coaching and depth is the key here. John Elway is one of the top 3 GMs in the NFL without question. He's found talent from so many levels in so many ways and really just has the Broncos set up to succeed. There aren't real holes in the roster outside of the offensive line. That's pretty impressive to think about. Their defensive talent is really the star as far as depth goes. They are missing so many big time starters, but the guys behind them are just ready to go and there isn't significant fall off in ability.
A great example of that was last week when they played San Diego. T.J. Ward was out and they had David Bruton Jr. on Antonio Gates all day. That worked just fine. Gates had around 50 yards in catches and was contained very well even though Rivers kept going to him over and over.
4. The Broncos have statistically the best defense in the NFL. What makes that defense tick?
It goes back to the two things I've already touched on above: great coaching and great talent on the roster. Denver has been building up its defensive talent since Elway took over and the hiring of Wade Phillips this year was probably the most significant upgrade Denver made this off season (sorry Kubes).
Let's talk about that for a moment though. Philips really needs more credit than he gets in my opinion. What is it he does that other DCs don't? He adjusts his scheme to his players. He does this week-to-week, game-to-game, and play-to-play. The scheme he uses is more simple for players to understand. It is not a "read and react" system (think 2-gap line techniques). Same thing for the linebackers...they don't have to do a ton of diagnosing. They usually have one job on any given play so they can just go use their God given abilities to play football.
This is an aggressive system. It dictates to offenses instead of reacting to what the offense does. It utilizes speed and aggressiveness to make big plays happen. It is very hard to play against because of how it is ran and the depth of talent we have (especially in the pass rush department).
5. If the Raiders are to move the ball on offense or step up defensively, what areas should they target?
Offensively they should try more of a power run style to the left side of the defense. Running towards Derek Wolfe's side of the field is a friggin waste of time. He's like a Von Miller talent level guy against the run and he's playing out of his mind this year. The Broncos' personnel is more built for speed and aggressiveness. If the Raiders' offense can just get one guy to miss and block out the rest, they could get big plays to happen. I remember from the first meeting this year the Raiders got pretty decent production in the run game...if they can grind out some good drives, it should wear down the defense and open up the offense quite a bit.
Defensively the Raiders have to stop the run and defend the field sideline to sideline in the passing game. Do those two things, and the Broncos' offense will likely either make mistakes or just fizzle. The big thing I'd have the defense focus on is shutting down the tight ends. They are Brock's security blanket and his main read much of the time. Make him throw outside and down field. He's a young QB that hasn't shown that in spades yet.
I will link to my answers to his questions when they are posted.