The Oakland Raiders fell at home 33-13 Monday night to the Los Angeles Rams, but because of the beauty of the short week, the Silver and Black have already shifted their collective focus to the Denver Broncos.
Headed into Week 2, Head Coach Jon Gruden’s team will once again look to earn their first win of 2018, and they’ll have their hands full with a Broncos team who took care of business in their opener, felling the Seattle Seahawks 27-24.
Winning on the road is always a challenge in the NFL; here are three, key matchups that will play a large role in determining whether or not the Silver and Black fly back to California with a win.
Donald Penn vs. Von Miller
Von Miller was an absolute game wrecker for the Broncos last week.
The All-Pro edge rusher totaled three tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, forced two fumbles; oh, and added three sacks for good measure too.
Simply put, the Seattle Seahawks offensive line just didn’t have an answer for Miller, and while the Broncos defensive line collectively ran rampant – six sacks total isn’t too shabby – Miller was really the catalyst for much of the chaos Sunday afternoon at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
While the former Defensive Player of the Year will probably be moved around the defensive front Sunday afternoon, Penn will likely go toe-to-toe with No. 58 for much of the game, in a battle between two players with a combined 276 starts.
Penn held up pretty well last week in his first start at right tackle; but keeping Von Miller away from Derek Carr will be a different test entirely.
Gareon Conley vs. Emmanuel Sanders
Much like the Raiders, the Broncos boast a dynamic duo of wide receivers out wide, and while Demaryius Thomas made sure he got his last week against the Seahawks, Emmanuel Sanders was the really the crown jewel of the Denver aerial attack.
At game’s end, not only had the eight-year veteran found the end zone, he hauled in a team-high 10 catches good for 135 yards, en route to a 27-24 season Week 1 win.
On the other side of things, while the Raiders did fall to the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night, through the first 30 minutes of play, the team’s defense had effectively rendered Jared Goff a non-factor, as he connected just four passes for 60 yards.
Now, things got out of hand a little bit in the second half – Brandin Cooks got loose a few times – but give the Raiders defensive backs credit for not letting any, one player impart their will on the regular.
Once again, much will fall on the shoulders of second-year cornerback Gareon Conley; I’m excited to see how he responds to a big challenge for the second week in a row.
Derek Carr vs. Case Keenum
As it so often does in the NFL, I think that Sunday’s game will ultimately come down to which quarterback can make a big play in crunch time.
Both Carr and Keenum tossed a trio of interceptions in their first outings of 2018, but even though Keenum did indeed give the ball away three times, he ultimately finished his regular season debut with 329 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, after a really impressive first half, Carr threw for just 104 yards in the second half, and was unable to put any points on the board for the Silver and Black after halftime.
Carr’s Week 1 performance was certainly out of character, and while we have every reason to think he’ll get back on track, he’ll have his hands full this week against an athletic Broncos secondary.
“Myself, I got to take care of the ball with their good defensive backs,” Carr said. “Whenever you play a team like this, it’s always about the ball. You got to take care of the football which is something we have been able to do well around here for some years. Something we can do better though. Obviously, after last week. We will. We are going to do that better.”
I have a feeling that whichever QB – Carr or Keenum – has the better day, their team is going to enjoy a Week 2 “W.”