Hue Jackson vs. Hue Jackson
This is the most important matchup of the game. Jackson made himself look foolish with the Raiders quarterback situation two weeks ago and Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer combined to throw six interceptions. Jackson will be walking a fine line this Sunday. He has to balance his aggressive tendencies, Carson Palmer’s effectiveness and game management. The play calling has to vary enough to keep the passing game respectable without putting Palmer in a position to fail. Jackson has to remember that the opposing team has one of the worst quarterbacks and will struggle to be productive. If the Raiders lose this game it is because Jackson failed.
Carson Palmer vs. Carson Palmer
Palmer will make his starting quarterback debut this Sunday vs. Denver. To lead the Raiders to victory this Sunday, Palmer has to be more of a game manager than anything else. Rather than making plays that lead his team to victory, Palmer has to avoid plays that give away the game. This is not the game for Palmer to prove to everybody how comfortable he is in the offense. It’s the game for him to relay on passing outlets, work play action and find out what works. A multiple interception game by Palmer could make this game closer than the Raiders are comfortable with.
Michael Bush vs. Denver’s Front Seven
Carrying the load last game Bush finished with 99 yards. With McFadden officially out for this game, this is another opportunity for Bush to showcase his talents and to show everybody why he deserves a big contract in the offseason. To do this, Bush has to get the tough rushing yards when Denver’s front seven is expecting the run. Bush will also be relied upon as a passing outlet and to pick up blitzes in the passing game. Denver boasts a mediocre rush defense but has not let a back get 100 yards since McFadden put up 150 in week one. Wesley Woodyard, Denver’s leading tackler, will be all over the place trying to ensure the trend continues. This is an opportunity for Bush to showcase himself for the big contract.
Jared Veldheer/ Kalif Barnes vs. Von Miller
There are reasons why Miller is a leading candidate for defensive rookie of the year. He is in the top 10 in the league with 6 sacks and is fourth on his team in total tackles. With Palmer making his first start, the Broncos will likely test how he directs the lines protection and handles varied pressure. Veldheer and Barnes have to make sure this rookie does not consistently get to Palmer. The real test will be on third and longs, where the Raiders choose to pass and Miller is set in pass rushing mode.
Kevin Boss/ Brandon Myers vs. Denver Defense
The Raider tight ends will be needed to run block and provide support against Denver’s outside pass rush. So far this season, the success of McFadden and the wide outs have overshadowed Boss’ lack of productivity in the passing game. As Palmer is adjusting Boss and Myers need to become more reliable passing options. Boss needs to make big plays when Denver loads the box to stop the run. Denver has allowed two tight end touchdowns over the past two weeks. Either Boss will make an impact and reach the end zone or he will disappear.The Raider need Boss to have a good game on Sunday.
Tim Tebow vs. Chuck Bresnahan
The Raiders linebackers are better blitzing than in coverage. Chuck Bresnanhan’s safeties are effective blitzers and Tebow can’t stay composed in the face of blitzes. Expect Bresnahan to blitz Tebow as his inability to stay composed is undermining any effort of his to become a legitimate NFL quarterback. For Tebow not to be too embarrassed this Sunday, he needs to establish his mobility as a weapon and count on various screen plays and check downs. With inadequate wide receivers and his quarterback skills, Tebow must rely on his legs to make plays. The Raiders D has to make sure they get sacks on Tebow and not let him escape their blitzes.
Knowshon Moreno & Willis McGahee vs. Richard Seymour & Aaron Curry
McGahee when healthy is showing that he still has fuel and could very well eclipse the 1,000 mark for the first
time since 2007. He has three 100-yard games this season but is coming off a broken hand. He will likely play and get the majority of the carries. Seymour sets the tone for the entire defense. When he plays with the right amount of aggression and discipline, the Raiders defense is one of the league’s best. McGahee and Moreno have combined for 20 catches and 2 touchdowns this season and pose a threat coming out of the backfield. As Tebow struggles finding targets downfield, expect him to look to these back. Curry has historically struggled in pass coverage, but so far with the Raiders, this has not been a problem. Look for McGahee and Moreno to test Curry in pass coverage.
Eric Decker vs. DeMarcus Van Dyke
Decker is the bright spot in Denver’s largely inept passing attack. He has 30 catches, three more than DHB and is tied for fourth in the NFL with 5 touchdowns receptions. He has potential and his ability made Denver comfortable trading Brandon Lloyd. If Tebow has success connecting with any of Denver’s wide receivers it is Decker. The Raiders won’t shadow Decker. Expect, Tebow to try to connect with Decker when he is lined up against Van Dyke. Van Dyke is experiencing ups and down during his rookie year but is progressing. Look for Van Dyke to be tested often and for him to have his hands on the ball.
Expect a somewhat conservative Hue Jackson game plan, one that features Michael Bush and has a few wrinkles. The only good thing about Tebow’s performance will be his 50+ yard rushing effort. Oakland 20, Denver 13.