It’s unfathomable that a team with only 126 total yards of offense could beat a team with over 300 of the same yards.
That’s exactly what happened with the Raiders last season, a 15-12 win against arguably the best defense in football history while getting blown out in every statistical category. This year, in what could be the most important game of Oakland’s regular season, the Raiders are focused squarely on themselves.
Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said:
“For us, we spend more time worrying about us. About how we execute, how we run, how we take the ball away, about how we communicate. They’re the Super Bowl champs, reigning, and we have to certainly play well and execute and compete in order to play with them.”
Denver isn’t the same team they were last year. Several impact players were picked off from their roster in free agency, and a long championship season may be taking a toll now as injuries continue to pile up. Oh, and that Peyton Manning character is retired — a second year quarterback who was drafted in the seventh round of 2015 is slinging the ball now.
“I don’t see no obvious traits. Those are big shoes to fill, to compare a first year quarterback to a hall of famer. So, Siemian isn’t a bad player, we obviously feel like we can get after him. He’s a good player, if we don’t do a good job pressuring him, he can make us pay.”
Manning, who never played with a highly ranked offensive line, made it his trademark to get rid of the ball quickly. That type of style quickly became the staple of any offense he was a part of, and though Siemian’s career includes only eight starts, the two aren’t dissimilar.
Denver’s current starter throws the underneath pass well, and isn’t a big armed quarterback. He excels in shotgun, and can run an uptempo offense. With any young quarterback, of course, there are going to be knocks.
Siemian’s decision-making can be questioned, at times, and he’s still learning the nuances of professional football.
Defensive end Khalil Mack recorded five sacks during Oakland’s week 13 win at Denver last season, and the Raiders pass rush is being fortified by Irvin this year. The two edge rushers have combined for seven sacks this season, and if history remains the best indicator of future performance, the Raiders might double that total on Sunday night.
Though the tea leaves say left tackle Russell Okung, Paradis and linebacker Brandon Marshall will be unable to play, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak told the Denver media that he does expect them to be active on Sunday.
The Raiders injury report is less than plagued, though, with cornerback Sean Smith returning to practice in a limited fashion, moving well in tip drills and general warm up activities. Smith injured his shoulder during the first drive of Sunday’s win at Tampa Bay, and missed the rest of the game.
Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele, Donald Penn, Rodney Hudson, Vadal Alexandar and Menelik Watson were also limited, along with receiver Amari Cooper, running back Taiwan Jones, and fullback Jamize Olawale.
Defensive tackle Stacy McGee has not practiced this week, and it’s unlikely he will suit up this Sunday.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.