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Week 5 preview: Broncos at Raiders

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The Sports Xchange

Denver Broncos (4-0) at Oakland Raiders (2-2)

Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, at o.Co Coliseum, Alameda, Calif. – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl

*Keys to the game: The Broncos rank last in the AFC with an average of 4.8 yards per play on first down, and that’s including a 72-yard scamper by RB Ronnie Hillman last week. It’s down from last season’s 5.9 mark as the 29th-ranked ground game has failed to set QB Peyton Manning & Co. up in favorable down-and-distances. Manning said he’s looking for more explosive plays out of the offense, and no secondary has given up more 20-plus-yard completions than the Raiders (19). Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, the Broncos’ defensive coordinator from 2012-14, may know some of Manning’s tendencies and vulnerabilities, but Denver is running a much different offense under Gary Kubiak.

The Broncos are also running a different defense in Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme that will send waves of pressure at second-year Raiders QB Derek Carr. Carr has shown excellent growth this season and has thrown for 861 yards with seven TDs against two interceptions over his past three games. While Oakland ranks just 22nd with 96.2 rushing yards per game, Latavius Murray has stepped into the feature role nicely, averaging 4.4 yards per carry while taking 81.7 percent of the carries from the Raiders’ running backs. The Raiders must stay committed to the run with Carr doing battle with the league’s top-ranked pass rush that has also produced 18 sacks.

*Matchup to watch – Broncos QB Peyton Manning vs. Raiders FS Charles Woodson: Two of the three players still active from the 1998 NFL Draft have had several memorable encounters during their 18 seasons. It will be a cat-and-mouse game, with Manning trying to break a string of at least one interception in every game this season while Woodson has come up with late-game picks each of the past two weeks.

*Player spotlight – Broncos DL Derek Wolfe: After being second among Denver defensive linemen by playing in 67 percent of the snaps last season, Wolfe returns from his four-game PED suspension to an uncertain role with the Broncos’ enjoying strong depth along the d-line.

*Fast facts: Broncos WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have combined for 58 receptions, the most of any tandem in the NFL. … Woodson has 62 career INTs, tied with Hall of Famers Dick LeBeau and Dave Brown for ninth in NFL history, but none against Manning.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

With Aldon Smith picking up his first sack as a Raider last week and providing a complement to Khalil Mack, the Broncos could again find it difficult to move the ball consistently – especially if LT Ty Sambrailo sits again. Fortunately for Denver, it has a dominating pass rush of its own that still has the ability to fluster emerging Raiders QB Derek Carr.

*Our pick: Broncos 20-16.


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