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Key Matchups To Watch: Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos


Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and Denver Broncos Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum will be rocking Sunday night as the Oakland Raiders make their 2016 primetime debut, playing host to the Denver Broncos.

The lights always seem to shine a little brighter on Sunday Night Football, and not only will the Week 9 clash between the Raiders and Broncos serve as the marquee matchup for Sunday's slate of games, the winner will also earn the outright lead in the AFC West.

Derek Carr has been consistent all season, saying that the road to the division crown goes through Denver, and Sunday night he and the resurgent Raiders will get their first chance to see how they stack up against the reigning Super Bowl champs.

This one will be fun, so let's take a look at three matchups that will help determine the end result of the division clash.

Cornerback David Amerson vs. Wide Receiver Demaryius Thomas

With Sean Smith's availability for the Sunday night showdown in question, the play of fellow cornerback David Amerson now becomes all the more important.

After Smith left the Week 8 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers early with a shoulder injury, Amerson shifted over and squared up against Mike Evans, playing pretty well against the big receiver, holding him to just four catches for 50 yards.

This week, the rangy cornerback will have his hands full once again – particularly if Smith isn't able to go – as  he'll be tasked with shutting down another physically-imposing wide receiver, this time the 6'3", 229 pound Demaryius Thomas.

While the Broncos may have just the No. 27 offense in the NFL this season, Thomas is still on pace to hit the 1,000-yard mark, and currently leads the team with four receiving touchdowns as well.

While Peyton Manning is no longer under center for the Broncos, Denver's recipe for success has remained the same with Trevor Siemian at the helm; boast a top defense and then have the second-year quarterback pick and choose his moments to get the team into the end zone.

Thomas has turned into one of Siemian's most-reliable weapons, and while it's a big ask for Amerson to limit the dynamic wide receiver, if No. 29 can indeed do just that, it would pay dividends for the Raiders defense as a whole.

Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave vs. Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips

The Raiders feature the No. 5 offense in the NFL, and the Broncos currently have the No. 3 defense, so something has to give Sunday night, right?

It'll be a good, old-fashioned battle between the high-flying Raiders offense, and the stout Broncos defense, and the game of chess between the two coordinators will be a game-within-the game that I can't wait to see play out.

With over half a century of coaching experience between them, there won't be much that Musgrave or Phillips can put on the field that the other hasn't seen at some point, but what I'll be keyed in on is how each coach reacts and adjusts throughout the 60-minute affair.

Derek Carr and the Raiders offense have been firing on all cylinders as of late, and they'll face arguably their toughest test of the season so far Sunday night. The clash is setting up to be a bout between a pair of heavyweights, and I for one, can't wait to see watch it unfold.

Tackle Austin Howard vs. Outside Linebacker Von Miller

Where do you begin with Von Miller?

The four time Pro Bowler – and Super Bowl 50 MVP – is not just the unquestioned leader of the Broncos defensive attack, but he's also one of the best defensive players in the NFL.

The two-time First-Team All-Pro outside linebacker has made a career out of imparting his will on opposing quarterbacks, and he's doing just that once again in 2016, as he's tallied 8.5 sacks heading into the Week 9 matchup.

"He's one of the best players that we've ever seen in this league, especially pass rusher," said quarterback Derek Carr when asked about Miller. "It's so funny being in the division and playing him so many times, you watch non-divisional teams play against them and see their game plans to run at him or try to do certain blocks. It doesn't matter what you try to do, eventually he's going to make a play. It's fun to watch him play. It's fun to compete against him because he's one of the best. I love that. He's just a special talent, he really is."

While Miller will move around the defensive front Sunday night at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, right tackle Austin Howard will likely be the one pitted against No. 58 the majority of his time on the field.

Derek Carr has been superb this season, and a big reason for that is because the Raiders offensive line has given him ample time to operate, allowing just nine sacks this season – the fewest in the NFL.

Will the Silver and Black find a way to neutralize Miller? Only time will tell, but make sure to keep an eye on the All-Pro outside linebacker throughout Sunday night's contest.

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