Its rivalry week again. The Raiders are set to travel to Denver to face off against the Denver Broncos.
To get a sense of what is going on up in the thin air of the Mile High City, I caught up with my colleague on Examiner.com, Joseph Vaccarelli who covers the Denver Broncos. He answered a series of questions that I have about the current state of the Broncos as well as the overall rivalry.
I also answered his questions, and you can read that question and answer session on his Denver Broncos Examiner page.
Thoughts from the Dark Side: Year two of the Josh McDaniels regime. Had the big start and collapse last year, and is off to a rough start this year. Any feeling that there may be a short leash if the wins don’t start coming?
Joseph Vaccarelli: Not just yet. He signed a four-year deal worth more than $11 million and I expect him to at least get a third season and wouldn’t be surprised to see him get an extension if the Broncos end the season strong. The drafting of Tim Tebow could also buy him some time as everyone wants to see what McDaniels can do with him.
TFDS: What are your impressions of the QB situation? Orton is playing very well, but Tebow is in the wings.
JV: Kyle Orton hasn’t just played well, he’s on pace for more than 5,000 yards passing. Tim Tebow is an exciting player, but don’t be surprised to see him sit for another year. Orton signed a contract extension through next season recently, which shows the team’s confidence in him. I expect the Broncos to keep finding packages to use Tebow in, but, in my opinion, Orton will be the starting quarterback through next season, barring an injury.
TFDS: Biggest difference between the Shanny era and the McDainels era philosophy wise?
JV: The main difference can be seen in the handling of players. McDaniels has received the most attention for trading away problem players Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Tony Scheffler and bringing in “his guys.” Shanahan didn’t seem to have problems with these players and also brought in players with troubled pasts, such as Dale Carter and Daryl Gardner. In terms of coaching philosophy, Shanahan loved to run the ball with his under-sized offensive lines and zone blocking schemes, McDaniels loves to pass and revamped the O-line with heavier players and guys that can man block.
TFDS: What do you see as the big x factor for the game on each side of the ball?
JV: On defense, rookie cornerback Perrish Cox is the x-factor for the Broncos. He has seen extensive playing time and played well at times, but has also been taken advantage of. If Andre Goodman can’t go again, he’ll start opposite Champ Bailey and should receive a lot of attention in the Raiders’ passing game. On offensive, Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno looks to finally be healthy. If he can help establish some sort of a running game, the Raiders could be in trouble. If he struggles and the Broncos are forced to rely on the pass, it could spell doom for Denver.
TFDS: Which matchups do you see best favor Denver, and which do you see favor Oakland?
JV: The Broncos have a lot of weapons in the passing game and Nnamdi Asomugha can only cover one guy. Kyle Orton could have a big day passing the ball. For the Raiders, they came into Denver last season and ran all over the Broncos with Michael Bush and Darren McFadden leading the Raiders to 241 yards rushing in a 20-19 upset of the Broncos. If they can run like that again, the Raiders will have a good day.
*>BONUS<* Game prediction:
JV: Despite the Raiders winning the past two games in Denver, I expect the Broncos to come out strong and beat the Raiders 28-13.
Rivalry bonus: What is your favorite memory of the great Raider Bronco rivalry?
JV: This is a tough because I seem to have more memories of the Broncos’ tough losses to the Raiders, and it didn’t get any worse than losing in Los Angeles in back-to-back weeks in the regular season finale and the wild card round of the playoffs. But I’ll go with a recent game for my memory. The opening game of 2008 saw Broncos rookie Eddie Royal torch Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall in his first NFL game on Monday Night Football. Royal would finish with 9 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown as the Broncos crushed the Raiders 41-14.
Joseph Vaccarelli covers the Denver Broncos for Examiner.com.