|James Brown asks Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Shannon Sharpe and Boomer Esiason for their thoughts on the Monday night matchups between the Patriots and the Dolphins and the Raiders against the Broncos. Watch The NFL Today every Sunday at 12 p.m. ET.|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
1. Oakland Raiders (0-0) at Denver Broncos (0-0)
A few months ago, this game looked to be the official start to the Tim Tebow era, but a lot has happened since July and Kyle Orton remains the starter. And for now, he gives the Broncos the best chance to win (Orton has thrown for at least 3,600 yards in each of the last two seasons). Although, you could argue that Denver won just three times with Orton under center a season ago. Duly noted. (Tebow got the start in the Broncos other win in'10.)
The Raiders, meanwhile, lost two of their best players -- cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and tight end Zach Miller -- to free agency, and Hue Jackson replaces Tom Cable who was fired after leading the team to eight wins. (It was the first time Oakland had more than five victories in a season since they went to the Super Bowl in 2002. So, naturally, Cable was canned.) Jackson, to his credit, sounds undaunted by the task of working for Al Davis.
"I expect to win here," he said. "And 8-8 doesn't cut it for me. I'm not interested in being 8-8. I'm interested in being great." And Denver's as good a place to start as any. The last time the Broncos hosted the Raiders, Oakland was up 21-0 before Denver ran an offensive play. By the time it was over, the Raiders had won 59-14, racked up 508 offensive yards, including 165 yards on the ground from Darren McFadden, who also added four (!) touchdowns.
But it's a new season; hope springs eternal and all that. The Broncos, under new coach John Fox, are looking to improve on last year's four-win effort. And the Raiders, a team that went undefeated in the division, are hoping to make the postseason for the first time since 2002.
2. What the Degenerate Gamblers and Eggheads Are Saying
The Broncos are favored by three points, according to Bodog.com. Translation: it's a pick 'em with Denver getting the edge because they're playing at home.
Interestingly, the Football Outsiders preseason projections have the Raiders ranked 28th (28th in offense, 21st in defense, 7th in special teams) and the Broncos ranked 29th (21st, 29th and 8th), ahead of only the Cardinals, Titans and Seahawks.
Based on the Vegas line and the FO projections, the Raiders and Broncos are evenly matched, though not much is expected from either outfit. (Of course, the same was said of the Chiefs last year and they won the division.)
And because we wouldn't be doing our jobs if we didn't mention it, every CBSSports.com expert but Pete Prisco likes the Broncos. Make of this what you will.
3. Key Matchup to Watch
Asomugha's now in Philly, which means that offenses can attack both cornerbacks without trepidation. So Chris Johnson and Stanford Routt will be in Orton's crosshairs. They'll be tasked with slowing Brandon Lloyd, who came out of nowhere to log 1,448 receiving yards and 11 TDs a year ago (by comparison, Lloyd managed just 2,370 yards in his first seven years in the league), and Eddie Royal. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos' 2010 first-round pick, is sidelined with a broken finger and a sore Achilles, so that's one less thing the Raiders' secondary has to worry about.
Offensively, Oakland will need to rely on its running game to open things up for the passing game. Now that tight end Zach Miller is in Seattle, quarterback Jason Campbell doesn't have a legit go-to receiver. We're still waiting for Darrius Heyward-Bey to play like a first-rounder, and Kevin Boss, signed to replace Miller, is out with a knee injury. This means that o-line will have to create holes for McFadden, Michael Bush and Taiwan Jones. If Oakland can establish a running game it will help neutralize a Broncos' pass rush that features Elvis Dumervil and rookie first-rounder, Von Miller.
4. Potentially Relevant YouTube
This is both awesome and awkward. The Monday Night Football intro from the 1996 Broncos-Raiders game. (Look at Jaws' 'stache!)
In case you're wondering, the Broncos won, 22-21.
5. The Raiders win if…
The offensive line can control the line of scrimmage, open up running lanes for McFadden and company, which will have the dual effect of eating clock and slowing the Broncos' pass rush.
6. The Broncos win if…
Orton can exploit the Raiders' secondary, build an early lead, and then let the defense tee off on Jason Campbell.
7. Prediction: Raiders 17 Broncos 20
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.