Each week, Raiders.com Senior Editor Jerry Knaak poses five questions heading into the next matchup. As the Oakland Raiders get ready to Denver to face the Broncos, here are this week's queries.
1. Just how different is the Broncos offense with Brock Osweiler at quarterback?
Denver Broncos starting quarterback Peyton Manning, Future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, has had a rough year. I won't begin to pretend to understand what's wrong with him physically, I just know the Broncos high-octane offense that routinely posted 30 per game was not as dominant as it had been and the Denver defense was a major reason the team started 7-0. Manning was lifted in favor of Brock Osweiler, who will make his fourth-straight start Sunday. According to Head Coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., Osweiler enables Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak to run more bootlegs and misdirection, which are hallmarks of his offense. Denver has won all three of Osweiler's starts.
2. Will the altitude or weather be a factor?
Head Coach Jack Del Rio spent three years as Denver's defensive coordinator. He is intimately familiar with the environment. It's referred as the "Mile High" city for a reason as it sits more than 5,000 feet above sea level. Coach Del Rio has this team flying in late Saturday afternoon and is preaching hydration. This is when you see how good your strength and conditioning program is. The forecast calls for snow today and temperatures in the low 30s. It should be 46 degrees and partly cloudy at game-time Sunday.
- How will the Raiders respond after last week? **
One of this week's Raiders.com mailbag questions asked if I thought quarterback Derek Carr would bounce back. I said he would. Carr was playing fairly well last week as the he was leading the Raiders on a drive at the Kansas City Chiefs 33 with the Raiders up 20-14 early in the 4th quarter when the wheels came off. Three interceptions and 20 unanswered points later, the Raiders succumbed 34-20 and fell to 5-7. After a relinquishing a lead in this fashion, the Raiders seemed a bit a shell-shocked in the fourth quarter. How will the team respond in Denver as they try to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Broncos?
4. Will Khalil Mack record a multi-sack game?
Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack has recorded four sacks in the last two games to bring his season total to nine. With one more he will become the first player to record 10 or more in a season for the Raiders since 2006. If he chalks up two sacks this week he'll become just the second Raider since 2001 (Derrick Burgess, 2005) to do so. Burgess set the franchise single-season sack record in 2005 with 16. Mack* *is the first Raiders player with three two-sack games in a season since Derrick Burgess in 2006. His four multi-sack games are tied for second most by a Raider through his first two seasons. Mack now has two sacks in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Entering Week 13, only four other NFL players had at least two sacks in back-to-back games this season: J.J. Watt, Kawaan Short, Cameron Jordan and Cameron Wake.
5. Will rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper surpass 1,000 yards receiving this week?
Cooper is 80 yards from becoming the first Raider to reach 1,000 yards receiving since Randy Moss in 2005. After recording just 1 catch for 4 yards at Detroit, Cooper has 11 grabs for 184 yards in his last two games. He has claimed three Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week awards and is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. He caught 4 passes for 47 yards in the first meeting between the Raiders and the Broncos.