The Oakland Raiders host the Denver Broncos Sunday. We took to social media for questions from the Raider Nation. Raiders.com Senior Editor Jerry Knaak has the answers.
From Cindy E: What do the Raiders have to do defensively to slow down the Broncos in particular compared to other opponents?
JK: Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning gets the ball out of his hands so fast, the coverage will have to play like it did most of the game against Cleveland to allow Khalil Mack, Justin Tuck and Aldon Smith to get to Manning. Pass rush up the middle will be key as well. Manning has to feel like he's in a football game; he needs to be uncomfortable, and he can't be allowed to sit in the pocket like it's 7-on-7. The other thing the Raiders will need to do is ball-control. Long, sustained drives will keep Manning off the field.
From Matt M**: What do you think is holding back the offense from using our own tight ends and hitting guys in the middle of the field?
JK: Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been taking what the defense gives him. He tried to hit tight end Clive Walford down the middle on a seam route with a back-shoulder throw last week but Walford couldn't come up with it. Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree are very good at creating separation and Carr has been connecting with them frequently.
From Donald S: It seems that the defense likes to play a lot of zone coverage and line up 8-10 yards off of receivers – do you see us moving to more press coverage and man anytime soon?
JK: I think the strategy is tailored for the opponent, the down and distance and the situation. So far this season we've seen a mix of fronts and coverages and I expect that to continue.
From Zach S: Does Charles Woodson get his first career interception of Peyton Manning this week?
JK: Anything is possible. The past couple of seasons Woodson has gotten his interceptions in a variety of ways – undercutting route in tight man-to-man, being in the right place on overthrows, breaking on passes while in zone coverage. I think Woodson would be happy with 0 interceptions and a victory.
From Matthew L: What is the single biggest factor that will decide this Sunday's game?
JK: The Raiders will have to match the Broncos score for score, which will be hard with Denver's defense. The Raiders can't get behind by more than one score. Last year, the Raiders played the Broncos pretty tight at home in the first half and then things got out of hand.
From Kevin K**: What can be done to help Murray run up the middle more effectively?
JK: The offensive line has to stay on their blocks. That being said, the passing game, particularly throwing the ball down the field, will open up some running lanes.
From Edward J: With Taiwan Jones being out lately and Murray's tough game against Chicago, is it Roy Helu Jr.'s time to shine now?
JK: Helu, Jr., did make the most of his opportunities against Chicago. Head Coach Jack Del Rio would not commit to a kick returner after declaring Jones out for this week's game. Helu could be used in that role. I expect Murray to bounce back this week and Helu will be the change-of-pace, 3rd down guy. Don't forget fullback marcel Reece, his role could be expanded as well.
From Albert H: Why are we able to prevent teams from scoring most of the game but when it comes down to crunch time teams move up and down the field?
JK: You hammer something long enough it tends to break. Baltimore didn't move up and down the field, the Raiders were able to get an interception just as the Ravens last possession started. You have to consider the other team here, they are professionals too. They have stepped up and made plays when it counted, just as the Raiders have in their two wins, and in much of the Bears game. Many NFL games come down to who makes the play when it counts the most. The Raiders have made a few, the opponent has made a few. The key will be developing that consistency where the Raiders are the team that makes the play at the critical moment more often than not.
From Paulina F**: Why hasn't Amari Cooper been utilized in the red zone or the second half much this season? He normally sets the tone early and makes big plays but the offense doesn't go his way much late in games.
JK: Opposing defenses have done a nice job of taking Cooper away with double-teams and rolling coverage to him in the second half. Crabtree has stepped up and made himself a nice target for Carr when this happens. If Cooper is taken away, it's up to the other weapons to step up and make plays. The Raiders are well aware of this and I expect Cooper to have a bigger role through four quarters as the season progresses.
From Brandon J: One name I haven't heard much from in the regular season that I had high hopes for is Mario Edwards Jr. Can we expect him to make an impact this year?
JK: Edwards has played more the past few weeks and with injuries along the defensive line, he should definitely play a bigger role this week. He played 26 snaps (34%) against the Bears last week.