Tale of the Tape: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
Peyton Manning looks to build on a sensational start to the season as he and the Denver Broncos welcome the Oakland Raiders to town in Monday Night Football action. Manning's nine-touchdown, zero-interception performance led the Broncos to back-to-back one-sided victories over the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants. Oakland opened with a narrow loss to Indianapolis before bouncing back to win against Jacksonville.
We break down this Week 3 matchup with our betting tale of the tape:
There was no more potent offensive attack in football after the opening two weeks of the season than the Manning-led Broncos. Despite not having the same arm strength he had as a younger quarterback, Manning is as efficient as ever, completing 67 percent of his passes while racking up more than 750 yards. The Broncos' third-ranked pass attack has taken a lot of emphasis away from the running game, which has been mediocre at the best of times (21st in average rushing yards entering Sunday). Knowshown Moreno scored twice last week, but the Denver rushing committee has been largely inconsistent.
The Raiders are the polar opposite of their Monday opponent, struggling with the passing game but boasting one of the more robust rush attacks in football. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor is finding things difficult without an established No. 1 receiver, having to rely on unheralded Rod Streater (eight catches, 112 yards) to lead the way. Pryor has no such concerns when he scrambles, leading all QBs with 162 rushing yards. He and Darren McFadden (177 yards, TD) form the strongest 1-2 running punch in the league so far, but should meet plenty of resistance against a stout Denver rush defense.
Baltimore and New York could do next to nothing on the ground against Denver, averaging fewer than 41 yards per game with a two yards-per-carry average. The Broncos haven't allowed a run of more than 14 yards to date - and with an offense that is averaging 45 points per game, that means plenty of garbage-time passing opportunities for the opposition. This may explain why Denver has surrendered a whopping 688 yards through the air so far - its 111 pass attempts against is third only to Philadelphia and Kansas City, who have each played an extra game.
The Oakland defense has been one of the league's biggest early-season surprises. Though it helps to have played a game against the anemic Jaguars' offense, the Raiders have looked solid defensively while holding their opponents to an average of 180.5 passing yards (fifth-best in the NFL), 80.5 rushing yards (ninth) and 13 points. The Jacksonville game was particularly encouraging, as the Jaguars managed just 34 rushing yards on 19 carries and were held out of the end zone until the game was well out of reach with 2:53 remaining.
After two full weeks and the early Week 3 game, the Broncos remain the only NFL team with a punt-return touchdown - courtesy Trindon Holliday, whose 81-yard return TD punctuated Denver's 41-23 win over the Giants in Week 2. While Holliday's impressive return inflates the Denver punt-return totals, the Broncos would still rank in the top three in yardage even without it. Denver sits in the middle of the pack in kickoff-return defense (24.2 yards allowed per kick) and has had a punt returned just three times, allowing an average return of 8.7 yards (12th-highest).
The Raiders haven't had many punt returns, but aside from a 30-yard jaunt, they haven't fared well - averaging just two yards on their other four attempts. Oakland ranks 12th in kickoff return yardage at 24.3 per attempt, but has only had three through the opening two weeks. The Raiders are one of only 11 teams to hold opponents to less than 20 yards per kickoff return (19.8), and have had just two punts returned at an average of 14 yards per attempt. Oakland is one of only three teams without an opponent fair catch.
"It's hard to fool that guy. He's seen a lot. He does a great job in preparation. It'll be hard to fool him. It's going to come down to execution. We're going to have to execute our jobs." -- Oakland head coach Dennis Allen on Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning
"They'll give you a lot of looks. They've got good guys doing it. I think they've improved on the back end, and I think they've improved playing team defense." -- Broncos head coach John Fox on the Oakland pass rush