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Game Preview: Raiders vs. Broncos

Divisional games mean it's time to throw out the season records. Anything can happen when two AFC West rivals match up.

"We don't look at records, we look at tape," said Broncos Head Coach John Fox. "Obviously, there are some very good players, very good talent on the Oakland Raiders. They're a division team. Historically, our approach is when you play a division team, you don't look at records because you know what kind of a fight it's going to be and it's going to be on the road. So that's our mindset at this point."

The Oakland Raiders host the Denver Broncos at Coliseum in a Week 10 tilt. It's the first meeting between the two teams in 2014.

The Raiders are still searching for their first win of the season, after nearly pulling out an upset in Seattle against the defending Super Bowl champions. The Broncos arrive in Oakland after a loss to the New England Patriots in snowy Foxborough.

The Raiders will have one of their toughest challenges of the year. Denver comes into Oakland with the number one ranked rushing defense in the NFL and the 13th ranked passing defense. Two of their players have eight or more sacks. Their quarterback has 2,572 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, 10 of which have gone to TE Julius Thomas. And two of the Broncos wide receivers have over 750 yards, respectively.

Raiders QB Derek Carr and his offense struggled in the first half of the Week 9 match-up with the Seahawks, but started to find their rhythm in the second half. They hope to bring the three-touchdown second-half performance to the table at Coliseum.

The offensive line will be dealing with 17 sacks in the form of two pass rushers – Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. "When they're on opposite sides, it's hard to decide where you're going to help and who you're going to help on, so that makes it a challenge," said Head Coach Tony Sparano. "One guy's got – whatever – nine sacks, the other guy's got eight sacks right now; they have 25 sacks as we speak. They're two outstanding rushers. DeMarcus Ware is a phenomenal person, first of all, and he really has been a great player. He was a great player for us in Dallas and I know how dynamic a pass rusher he is. You can see his maturity, and then Von, I've always had a lot of respect for him as a player. They're two dynamic players. It's rare that you'd find two on the same team like that, so it's going to be a heck of a challenge for us."

T Donald Penn will have his hands full against those two. "They're good players. They're probably some of the best players on the defense. They're playing very well this year," said Penn. "They're getting to the quarterback, and they've been watching our film too, and we're doing a good job of keeping people off our quarterback. They have to put that into consideration too."

Penn looks forward to these tough challenges. "It's going to be a good game. I love these types of match-ups," said the veteran tackle. "I'm excited for it. The key of this game is going to be those match-ups, and who's winning those match-ups. It's not going to be easy, and we're up for the challenge, and we're excited."

The backs and tight ends will have to be on point with their blocks in order to aid the offensive line against the strong defensive rush. "Blocking is always important for me as a fullback no matter who we're playing, just so happens that they have two great pass rushers," said FB Marcel Reece. "Us, as a team, as an offense, we just take on the challenge and try to keep our quarterback and our running backs clean."

Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson is game-planning to combat the Broncos defensive weapons. "Obviously, they have a very talented defensive front, and we have faced some talented defensive fronts thus far this season. They have two special edge rushers. They've got some good defensive tackles as well," said Coach Olson. "When you're playing a team that has four players that can rush the passer, it makes it difficult to double up on any one guy. I think the line and the quarterbacks, running backs, everybody that is involved in protection is taking a great amount of pride right now in what we're doing to try to help Derek and keep Derek clean. Certainly, we're aware of those guys. We've got to be aware of them in terms of the timing in the passing game and in terms of the protection and the different types of protection that we'll carry into this game."

Reece believes the Denver defense has been successful because of their ability to work as a unit. "I think really they're a good group that rallies together," said Reece. "Whenever you have a defensive unit that rallies to the ball and are pretty good tacklers, it produces into a great run defense. For us, we just have to be persistent in our blocking and be hard runners."

The Broncos secondary will have to be ready for Carr and the passing game. Last week, Carr completed passes to nine different receivers. "I've seen a guy that can make all the throws," said Coach Fox. "He appears, for a young player, to be very smart – I think ahead of his experience. He's a factor as far as mobility with his speed. I think he's a tremendous young player."

Like Carr, Peyton Manning started his rookie year, and 17 years later, the veteran is still breaking records and tearing apart secondaries.

"The one thing that I learned this last year playing him is just about how exact you have to be in order to out-execute," said LB Sio Moore. "You try to really prepare because you know how difficult this quarterback is to beat and this team is to beat. If you want to play good against this team, you have to be exact."

It will be LB Khalil Mack's first time across the line of scrimmage from Manning. Even though he's only a rookie, Mack has made an impression on the Broncos quarterback and the Denver head coach. "Very active, they move him around," said Manning on Mack. "He's a linebacker, he's a defensive end. He can run; he has the speed to cover guys. He definitely jumps out on film to you."


Mack has caught the eye of experts throughout the NFL, even without a sack. He hopes to get his first this week. "[He's] very physical gifted – great motor," said Coach Fox. "He plays much the same role as we use Von and he plays strong outside on under or weak outside on over and then defensive end on some downs. I know a lot has been made that he hasn't had a sack, but I think he might lead the league in holding penalties versus him. He's tremendous and a guy that we're very aware of."

Mack and the Raiders defensive line want to make Manning uncomfortable in the pocket. "With Peyton, you have to send pressure through the inside," said rookie DT Justin Ellis. "You have to flush him out and get him to move and that's how you affect him."

The secondary will have to be ready for Manning to dish it all over the field, particularly to WR Demaryius Thomas who leads the team with 894 yards and six touchdowns. Defensive Coordinator Jason Tarver explained what the corners and safeties will have to do to challenge the wideouts. "Body position, starting the down correctly, based on whether you're up or off and those things are critical," said Coach Tarver. "Playing through [Thomas's] hands are critical. You can't catch the ball until the hands come up. We have a lot of drills and plays that simulate that. All of our DBs do it, so we're continuing to get better in those phases. We have shown that the last few weeks. It's going to be a great challenge and we're looking forward to it."

FS Charles Woodson will face Manning for the seventh time in his career. The two players were both selected in the 1998 NFL Draft, after Woodson beat out Manning for the Heisman Trophy.

Most players' NFL careers are short. The average career is approximately three years. This game will showcase two 17-year veterans, both of whom are still at the top of their respective games.

"We have the utmost respect for him," said Coach Fox. "A Hall of Fame player, a Pro Bowl-type player. We believe he has a lot of football left and when you turn on the tape, you see that he does. They've been able to utilize him a little more as a down safety just because he is such a good cover guy. You can match up on a third wideout, a gifted tight end, or maybe it's a situational back that's very good, so he's got that cover ability and obviously, he's seen a lot of offensive football. He understands the game and that's why he's having a tremendous year."

Woodson and the Raiders defenders will have their work cut out for them in the passing game with Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas. RB Ronnie Hillman has been productive for the Broncos in the run game and Montee Ball, who was injured, returned to practice this week. With all of the offensive threats, the Raiders defense is putting the focus on how to execute their own game plan.

"I think we look at how we make the game about us, how we can have the game dictated by what we do, not by what somebody else can do," said Moore. "You have to give credit where credit is due; they're good players. At the same time, we have to execute our game plan so that they go to our hands."

The Raiders are eager for the first win of the season and they want to get that "W" against their division rivals in their house. "We just have to do it. Not play close. We're always playing close, we just have to do it," said Ellis. "When it's time and it presents itself, we just have to do it and win the game instead of just playing close."

The players want to do it for the fans. "I'm excited about coming home and playing, that's the biggest thing, number one," said Moore "I'm excited also about working to get our first win against Denver at home. I think the fans and everyone would love that win."

Reece expects a playoff-type atmosphere at "I think that's how it always is when we play anyone in our division especially at home," said Reece. "I always tell everyone, Raider Nation is second to none, they're going to pack the house out."

The Raiders host the Broncos at 1:05 p.m. PT. Catch the game on CBS 5, listen on 95.7 The GAME, visit or follow along on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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