Here is why the Raiders will beat the Denver Broncos tonight at McAfee Coliseum:
1. They’re due. At some point, the Raiders will face a team which plays worse than they do in Week 1. Plus, you’ve got to figure an ex-Bronco or two (Javon Walker, Ashley Lelie, Gerard Warren, Cooper Carlisle) can give the Raiders an edge.
2. They’re better at quarterback. Yes, JaMarcus Russell will make mistakes. But don’t compare Russell to other No. 1 draft picks or quarterbacks on other teams. Compare him instead to Aaron Brooks, the 2006 Andrew Walter, Josh McCown and Daunte Culpepper.
How do you like him now?
Take a look at how Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco did in their debuts Sunday. With the proper run support, there is no reason Russell can’t do something similar.
3. Justin Fargas is all shiny and new, having not yet subjected his body to the weekly demolition derby. He’s the most game-ready player on the offense according to Lane Kiffin and he is just waiting to drop 100-plus on the Broncos after gashing them for 146 last season in Oakland.
4. Mike Shanahan bristled during a conference call when I asked him about the Broncos getting away from being a running team because of Jay Cutler’s emergence as a passer.
“You may write about it more when we’re throwing the ball well but we’re still going to run the football and we’re running it well,” Shanahan said.
But the fact is they weren’t up to par last year, gaining under 2,000 yards (1,957) for the first time in since 2001 and finishing ninth in rushing, a year after finishing eighth. The biggest reason for Denver’s dominance over Oakland since 1995 is their running game _ and now the Raiders run it better.
5. Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall is suspended for the opening game. He is the most dangerous receiver on either team, the game-breaking target Cutler needs the most.
The starters will be Darrell Jackson, the drop-prone veteran who even the 49ers wouldn’ t have as their own, and Eddie Royal, a dangerous rookie. Nnamdi Asomugha, DeAngelo Hall and Stanford Routt should be able to keep the Denver receivers under control.
Note: Prevoiusly called Eddie Royal “Darrell.” Darrell Royal is the former coach at Texas.
6. The Raiders should have swept the Broncos last year. Only Shanahan’s time out prevented an Oakland win in Denver when Sebastian Janikowski boinked one off the upright.
This gets back to reason No. 2, but Josh McCown, playing with a bad ankle, had one of the worst days a quarterback could possibly have yet the Broncos were lucky to win. All McCown had to do was properly manage the rematch _ which he did _ and Denver wound up kneeling on the ball to end a 34-20 loss.
Out-coaching Shanahan head-to-head is probably the only reason Kiffin escaped the Bugel-Shell fate of one-and-done.
7. The Broncos don’t have the defensive personnel to dominate the Raiders offensive line. No Albert Haynesworth and not a Williams (Pat, Mike, Jamal) in sight. It’s true the Raiders tackles have some pass blocking issues, but in a true zone blocking system, the key linemen are the center and two guards _ and Robert Gallery, Jake Grove and Carlisle should take care of business.
8. Zach Miller should be open _ and Russell will find him. Denver strong safety Marquand Manuel is regarded as a hitter with problems in coverage _ perfect for a tight end who seems wise beyond his years in finding open areas and a quarterback in Russell who already sees him as a secruity blanket.
9. The Darren McFadden factor. He changes everything about a a formerly plodding offense _ including how teams will defend the Raiders. He will create mismatches _ even when it is someone else getting the ball.
10. Jason Elam is in Atlanta. Maybe the scariest Bronco over the years where the Raiders are concerned because it seemed he never missed dating back to the old Mile High Stadium and when the Raiders were at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
It’s not going to have that “automatic” feeling when Matt Prater lines up for the big kick.