(Sports Network) - The Raiders will be searching for their fifth straight win
in the Rocky Mountains on Sunday as Dennis Allen returns to Denver.
The new Oakland head coach, who spent the 2011 season in Denver as the Broncos
defensive coordinator, captured his first win as an NFL mentor last week when
Sebastian Janikowski drilled a 43-yard field goal as time expired to lift the
Raiders over the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-31.
Janikowski also connected on a game-tying 32-yard kick in the fourth quarter
Carson Palmer went 24-for-34 through the air for 209 yards, three touchdowns
and an interception, while Darren McFadden had 113 yards and a score on 18
carries for the Raiders (1-2).
"It's a great feeling, but I'm so proud of those guys in that locker room and
the way that they fought for 60 minutes," Allen said about his first win. "We
knew it was going to be a 60-minute fight against a very good football team
that we played out there today. They fought all the way up to the very end and
we were fortunate to come out on top.".
The Broncos, meanwhile, have dropped two straight after opening the season
with a win over the Steelers.
Houston's Matt Schaub threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns last Sunday, as
the Texans held off Denver 31-25.
Peyton Manning threw for 330 yards and a pair of fourth-quarter scores, but
ended up with a career-high 26 incompletions on 52 passes as the Broncos (1-2)
saw their late charge fall short to send them to a second consecutive loss.
"Any time we're throwing incomplete passes, that's a we thing. We got to find
a way to move the chains," Manning said.
It's the 64th time that Manning has thrown for at least 300 yards in a game,
surpassing Dan Marino's record for the most 300-yard passing games in NFL
Eric Decker hauled in eight passes for 136 yards, while Brandon Stokley added
six catches for 73 yards and a score in the setback.
Oakland leads this historic rivalry with a 59-42-2 mark, including winning six
of the past nine and the four straight in the Rockies.
"It's a division opponent, it's a big game," said Allen. "We've got a
challenge to face the Denver Broncos and we're going to come up with a good
plan. Our focus is going to be on our team trying to exploit whatever
weaknesses Denver has and eliminate the times they're able to exploit whatever
vulnerabilities we have."
WHEN THE RAIDERS HAVE THE BALL
The Raiders are at their best when McFadden is hitting on all cylinders and he
finally broke out last week against Pittsburgh. The former Arkansas star has
traditionally performed very well against Denver, compiling three straight
100-yard performances against the Broncos. Meanwhile, his 637 total yards
rushing vs. Denver is his most vs. any opponent.
When McFadden is having success running the football that opens the doors for
the veteran Palmer, who tossed three TD passes last week. That's typically a
big sign of success for a Palmer-led clubs, who are 17-4 when he throws three-
Palmer will likely be without one of his top outside threats this week,
however. Darius Heyward-Bey was carted off the field during the fourth quarter
of Sunday's game against Pittsburgh after taking a hard hit from Ryan Mundy.
The receiver's head hit the turf first as he fell, and medical personnel
attended to him for several minutes before a cart wheeled him off the field.
He was responsive and gave a thumbs up to the crowd as he departed.
The speedy Heyward-Bey, who has nine receptions for 98 yards this season, was
diagnosed with a concussion and neck strain and is expected to make a full
recovery but hasn't passed impact testing yet. That's significant since
Oakland lacks depth outside.
Palmer will have to rely on Denarious Moore, who posted his first TD catch of
season last week, and tight end Brandon Myers, who already has a career-best
206 receiving yards this season.
Denver will likely be without starting linebacker Joe Mays this week. Mays was
suspended one game and fined $50,000 for an illegal hit against Matt Schaub.
The veteran, who has been active, recording 10 tackles and one-half sack so
far, is appealing but that's an uphill battle.
The big guns on the Broncos defense are end Elvis Dumervil, rush linebacker
Von Miller and veteran corner Champ Bailey. Dumervil has 7.5 career sacks
vs. Raiders, his most against any opponent while Miller has 14 1/2 sacks in 18
career games. The aging Bailey had a pair of interceptions in his last game
WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
Expecting Manning to hit the ground running after four different neck
surgeries and nearly two calendar years away from the game was asking a bit
much. The old zip just hasn't been there early this season and while part of
Manning's problems have certainly been rust-related, he's been getting by on
guile thus far. Denver is crossing its fingers hoping the arm comes back.
Decker looks like Manning's favorite receiver thus far. The wideout recorded a
career-best in catches and receiving yards last week and teams with DeMaryius
Thomas to give Manning two solid options.
Veteran Willis McGahee, who is battling a rib cartilage issue, handles
most of the work from the backfield for Denver and traditionally excels vs.
Oakland. McGahee rushed for 163 yards with two TDs in last game vs. the
Raiders and has six rush TDs in his past four games against Oakland.
The Raiders defense has been shaky early, allowing an average of 29.3 points
per game. Oakland is one of just three teams without an interception and is
tied for 28th in the league with three sacks.
The Raiders attempted to address the pass rushing problems this week by
signing 11-year veteran defensive end Andre Carter but it's unknown how many
reps Carter may get this week if any.
"We've got it in us to be a mentally tough team and compete and fight and keep
going until the very end," Allen said. "That's what you have to do to win
consistently in this league."
Heyward-Bey has been a disappointment during his NFL career but his speed will
be missed on Sunday. You have to account for Heyward-Bey when he's on the
field and the Broncos secondary should be able to sit on a number of routes,
making things tougher for Palmer.
Meanwhile, Manning is 77-29 as a starter when he has home field. Granted, the
former MVP lost a week ago but Houston is one of the best two or three teams
in football and Manning almost led a furious comeback even with his below
average arm strength.
"We're 1-2 and we've got a big division game coming up against Oakland," said
Manning. "Division games count double, so we've got to learn from this last
game and improve from it."