The Denver Broncos have looked nothing short of sensational thus far in NFL action, winning twice and winning big. On Monday night they will try to run their record to 3-0 when they play host to the Oakland Raiders in the ESPN-televised game that is set to kick off at 8:40 PM ET at Sports Authority Field in Denver.
Peyton Manning has simply ripped through the defenses of the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants thus far, easily outplaying two quarterbacks who have three Super Bowl MVP awards between them. His “pitcher’s matchup” in this game is somewhat less formidable.
Denver Broncos -15
Oakland Raiders +15
The NFL total on the game is one that, in the opinion of some, Manning & Co. are capable of taking care of all by themselves:
Over 48.5 Points -110
Under 48.5 Points -110
Peyton Manning won the battle last week against his brother Eli – the “Manning Bowl” as it was called – and didn’t do it by throwing for more yards, but by being the mistake-free quarterback. While Eli tossed four interceptions on the afternoon, Peyton was spotless in that category. Through two game she has seven touchdown passes (seven of which came in that one game against the Ravens) without an interception. It is still early in the season, but Peyton has to be the early favorite to be the league’s MVP.
His Broncos are a clear favorite at BetOnline to win the Super Bowl, listed at +400 in futures wagering. Meanwhile, Oakland is +6500 to win the AFC West. In other words, this is not really much of a rivalry. It certainly doesn’t resemble the days when Mike Shanahan, who was removed rather unceremoniously from his coaching job by Al Davis, used to beat up in Oakland at every turn, especially when he had the upper hand with John Elway and even afterwards. There is something of a collegial atmosphere here, as Dennis Allen, the young head coach of the Raiders, was John Fox’s defensive coordinator with the Broncos two years ago.
And as a defensive guy, Allen knows that it is going to take a huge effort for his team to keep Manning under control. At the same time, he does think that his team has a game plan that, in his words, “gives us an opportunity to have some success against him.”
Maybe part of that game plan will involve testing the right side of the Denver offensive line. That’s because the Broncos lost the services of Ryan Clady, a Pro Bowl left tackle, for the rest of the season when he suffered an injury to his foot. There should be adequate replacement with veteran Chris Clark taking over the position, and Winston Justice having just signed a contract to be a backup. But this now makes two Pro Bowl linemen to go down for the year with the Broncos (the -1400 money line favorite in this game at BetOnline) with center Dan Koppen tearing his ACL in late July.
The good news for Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor is that Von Miller won’t be chasing him all over the field, as the Denver linebacker is still sitting out a six-game suspension. The bad news is that there is the distinct possibility that Champ Bailey, the 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback and future Hall of Famer, may be ready to make his season debut after sitting out the first two games with a sprained foot.
The general consensus is that Pryor has a way to go before he can really become a competent NFL passer. He is 64% so far, with an average of 6.5 yards an attempt. What makes him useful in the Raider offense is his ability to pull down the ball and run. He’s averaged 7.4 yards a carry. Darren McFadden is also revived, or so it seems, with a 4.8 ypc average.
Denver started to have a little success running it last week, so one could expect that Knowshon Moreno (93 yards and two TD’s last week) will receive more opportunities. After all, Manning would not mind balancing the offense.
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