The Denver Broncos haven't looked as unbeatable as before when it comes to Peyton Manning and the offensive side of the ball, but a strong defense and maybe a little luck helped them to a 4-0 record a quarter of the way through the season. On Sunday, they'll face the Oakland Raiders in an important AFC West game, but one that the Broncos will obviously be favored to win.
Denver hasn't played the toughest competition to this point, and games against the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens might have been closer than they should have been, but it found ways to win. It looked certain that the Broncos were going to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2, but they managed to score two touchdowns in the final minute to pull out that victory.
A whole lot is going right for the Broncos at this stage of the season. Manning doesn't look as dominant as he has in years past, but the defense is rated highly against the pass and the run. The Broncos have been getting to the opposing quarterback, shutting down star wide receivers and generally doing a solid job against the run.
In other words, Derek Carr and the Raiders are going to have a tough time keeping up.
Oakland is a team that seems headed in the right direction from an organizational standpoint. The Raiders were a laughingstock for years in the league, but recent offseasons have been viewed as productive from a team-building perspective. Now they have a team that's perceived as competitive and, through four games, they've looked like it at times.
The Raiders are 2-2 on the season, losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1 and the Chicago Bears in their last game, and owning wins over the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. The most recent game is the most concerning -- the Bears were viewed as one of the worst teams in the league going into Week 4.
Prior to that game Chicago was a mess on both sides of the ball, but the Raiders allowed the Bears to drive down late to kick a game-winning field goal. An offense that hasn't looked good all season made short work of the Raiders late in that game, and it's a huge concern with Manning on the other side of the field on Sunday.
Still, Denver's offense isn't performing up to expectations, ranking 26th in the league in total yards, just behind the Bears. Manning is also making more mistakes with the football than we're used to seeing. He has completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 968 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. He's been sacked 10 times on the season and has a quarterback rating of 80.8.
For the Raiders, Carr has completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 922 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He's looking more like a franchise quarterback every week, but his toughest outing of the season thus far awaits him on Sunday.
How to watch
When: 4:25 p.m. ET
Where: O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
Announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl
Online: NFL Game Pass
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