It’s really no secret that the surest way to win in the NFL is to do it in the trenches. That’s where the Broncos have been mastering their opponents this year on both sides of the ball and if the Raiders are to win, they must put a stop to it Sunday.
Currently the Broncos are the league’s top run defense, holding teams to 59.7 yards per game. On the other side, they are the league’s third ranked running team, averaging 143 yards per game.
The Raiders rush offense was looking pretty good after the first two weeks of the season, but fell off a cliff along with the rest of the offense against Washington last week. They are now 15th in the league at 107 rushing yards per game.
There is a caveat here, though. If you rank the teams by yards per carry, it’s the Raiders who are 4th in the league with the Broncos dropping to tenth with a 4.4 yards per carry. The problem is, yards per carry doesn’t mean much if the team can’t establish the run and get the ball to Marshawn Lynch more than 6 times as they did last week.
As far as run defense is concerned, the Raiders are much farther down the list, allowing 112 yards per game. That’s nearly twice what the Broncos (59.7 ypg) allow.
When you look at yard per carry allowed, the Broncos still top the league with an astounding 2.6 yards per carry allowed. While the Raiders only look slightly better, rising to 18th with 4.2 yards per carry allowed.
The top backs for each team are CJ Anderson and Marshawn Lynch. Anderson is 6th in the league with 235 yards rushing. Lynch is 25th with just 139 yards. Anderson’s superior numbers are partly to do with carrying the ball 53 times to Lynch’s 36 and partly because he averages a half yard more per carry (4.4 ypc) than Lynch (3.9 ypc).
It’s difficult to directly compare either Anderson or fellow Broncos running back Jamaal Charles to Lynch. They are both small speed backs and Lynch is a workhorse back who the Raiders use in short yardage which tends to lower the overall yards per carry numbers.
That’s not to make excuses for Lynch’s sub-4 yards per carry average. That needs to come up and in order to do that, the Raiders Pro Bowl offensive line must get the better of the Broncos’ league best defensive line to open holes for Lynch to work.
The men in the middle are Domata Peko, Derek Wolfe, and Adam Gotsis. The battle between this trio and the trio of Kelechi Osemele, Rodney Hudson, and Gabe Jackson will be something to behold.
On the flip side, the Raiders trio of Mario Edwards Jr, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Justin Ellis will hope to hold the line and keep Anderson and Charles from finding creases and picking up big yards.
As Chris Reed pointed out when discussing the keys to the game this week, when the Raiders took down the Broncos last season, they dominated the time of possession 41:28 minutes to 18:32 minutes. You do that first and foremost by running the ball and stopping the run.
Last season the Raiders were 6th in the league in rushing. That 144.5 yards per game is better than the Broncos average right now. So, we know the Raiders have the capability to control the line of scrimmage on offense. Strength v strength.
The Raiders’ defensive line still has much to prove. Proving it against a division rival could mean the difference between a win and a loss in Raiders division opener in Denver.