It’s the dawn of a new season, and for the Broncos it means they can forget what happened last year during their 4-12 season. What better way for them to do that then to make a statement on Monday night. Monday night, one of the greatest rivalries in the NFL takes the field when the Denver Broncos face the Oakland Raiders at the newly christened Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
For the Broncos, last year was a year to forget, made more so by two humiliating losses to the Oakland Raiders who scored a total of 98 points. The Raiders, then led by Tom Cable, exploited a Denver run defense that ranked 31st in the league, used Darren McFadden who totaled 284 rush yards and a total of four TDs in two games.
Denver Defense Needs To Stop The Run:Oakland will likely use the same run strategy on Monday night as they used all of last season, but Denver is relying on its newly formed 4-3 defense, headlined by the return of pass rush specialist Elvis Dumervil and future star Von Miller, to close the gaps and stop the run. Denver has already lost one starting DT, Ty Warren, for at least 3-4 months and the other starter Marcus Thomas’ status as of Thursday morning still unclear. For now, Denver will be relying on DT’s Broderick Bunkley and Kenny Vickerson to shut down the middle of the line. Denver’s LB corps took a hit as well losing D.J. Williams to a dislocated elbow in the week 3 preseason game. Williams has led the Broncos in tackling in 5 out of the last 6 years but I’m not too worried as Wesley Woodyard has shown that he could probably start for any other team. Another position move that will change the Denver defense is putting Champ Bailey as the nickel corner on 3rd down passing situations. What this does is it allows Bailey to play against the slot receiver, which is one of the highest targeted players on third down, and if the slot reciever gets the majority of looks on third down, why not have your best CB covering him. While Bailey is playing nickleback, his CB spot will be filled by Cassius Vaughn. Denver’s defense should be an improvement from last year, as there isn’t much further they can fall, and new HC John Fox has been known to produce good defenses.
Key For Denver: The number one thing Denver needs to do other than stopping the run, is short yard conversions. Last year a lot of Denver drives were killed on third and one situations and the ever frustrating lack of being able to punch it in at the goal line. The effects of this are three fold: Denver scores on the ground, drives are extended giving the defense more rest in between shifts, and it takes a lot of pressure off of Kyle Orton who last year took a lot of unwarranted heat because of failing to make completions on the goal line or short yardage conversions. This already seems to be taken care of with the addition of power RB Willis McGahee who has already shown he can get the conversions and TDs throughout the preseason.
Oakland is also dealing with a few injuries, including starters WR Jacoby Ford, TE Kevin Boss, and CB Chris Johnson.
Oakland won both games last year and did it in big fashion but my call on this game is that the improved Denver pass rush will cause too many problems for the Raiders offense, Broncos win over the Raiders 24-21.