Breaking Down The Broncos

* The skinny: The Broncos are fresh from a lopsided loss to the New England Patriots. Their only other loss in eight games this season came in overtime against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, on the road. As usual, quarterback Peyton Manning is having a monster season as the maestro of the Broncos high-flying offense. He has averaged 321.5 yards and three touchdowns per game so far as the Broncos seek a second straight AFC Championship. Manning has shredded the Raiders in all four games he played against them as a member of the Broncos. The Broncos added several standout players to their defense this season, and it has resulted in a more-balanced team.

* Players to fear/Offense
QB Manning. He is on pace for 5,144 yards passing, which would make him only the second player in NFL history to surpass 5.000 yards at least twice.
WR Emmanuel Sanders. In his first season with the Broncos, Sanders has emerged as one of the game’s most-productive receivers. He is on pace for more than 1,500 yards.
TE Julius Thomas. He has an NFL-high 10 receiving touchdowns at the midpoint of the season. His height, speed, leaping ability and body control make him a matchup nightmare for most defenders.

* Players to fear/Defense
LB Von Miller. He has nine sacks and has teamed with linebacker DeMarcus Ware to give the Broncos perhaps the most feared rushing tandem in the league.
LB Ware. He has eight sacks and is enjoying a rebirth in his first season with the Broncos. Ware spent all of his career with the Dallas Cowboys before he signed with the Broncos this offseason.
CB Aqib Talib. He has two of Denver’s eight interceptions. More important, he has played as well as any cornerback in the game and turned a weakness into a strength.

* Key numbers
71.6 – Yards rushing allowed per game, the fewest in the league. Also, they are the second-best team in terms of fewest yards allowed per carry at 3.3.
20 – The minimum number of points the Broncos have scored the past 29 straight regular-season games, an ongoing NFL record.
30.6 – The average points scored Denver’s first eight games, good for third-best in the league.
1,789 – Combined yards receiving by Sanders and fellow starting wideout Demaryius Thomas.

* Injury report: RB Montee Ball (groin), LB Nate Irving (knee), S Quinton Carter (hamstring), OT Paul Cornick (shoulder) and TE Virgil Green (calf).

* Vegas says: Broncos by 11 1/2

* What others are saying: All 13 of the so-called ESPN experts that predict the outcome of games each week have the Broncos beating the Raiders.

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McDonald grades Raiders off Seahawks game

Beat writer Jerry McDonald doled out the following grades, by unit, based on the performance of the Raiders in their 30-24 loss to the Seattle Seahakws:

Passing offense
Derek Carr never settled into any kind of rhythm, completing 24 of 41 passes for 194 yards. Two first-half interceptions led to 10 points for the Seahawks. There were 1-yard touchdown passes to Mychal Rivera, one on fourth down and one on third down, but wide receivers were not a factor. The longest pass play, 23 yards, was to Darren McFadden. Grade: D

Rushing offense
A lot of nothing. McFadden carried 13 times for 20 yards. Maurice Jones-Drew played enough to carry twice and was ambushed twice for a minus-2 yards. In a difficult road venue when the Raiders most needed to succeed with the run, they had two rushing first downs. Grade: F

Pass defense
A team that routinely had been seeing opposing quarterbacks post Peyton Manning-type ratings made Russell Wilson (17 of 35, 179 yards) look like a rookie. The most damage the Seahawks did came out of the backfield as Marshawn Lynch had five catches in five targets for 76 yards. Good mix of coverages and rushes. Grade: B

Rush defense
Lynch had to work for what he got, gaining 67 yards in 21 carries but scoring on runs of 3 and 5 yards. He had no gain longer than 11 yards and averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Robert Turbin contributed 35 yards in only five carries while spelling Lynch. In all, Seattle stayed persistent and was rewarded with 149 yards in 38 carries with eight first downs rushing. Grade: C-plus

Special teams
A team desperately in need of some big plays anywhere got them against the Seahawks. Denico Autry’s blocked punt set up a touchdown for Brice Butler when the Raiders trailed 24-3. A 27-yard TJ Carrie punt return set up the touchdown that made it 24-17. Marquette King had a 46.2 net and put three punts inside the 20-yard line. The Seahawks had returns of 38 yards on a punt and 36 on a kickoff. Grade: B

Much vitriol on social media for Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson. But you can’t throw on every down against Seattle, and Carr wasn’t all that effective when he did. Play the broken record — it’s not the play-calling, it’s getting your players to properly execute the plays that are called. Sparano and his staff have had the Raiders emotionally ready to play winning football for the last four weeks, but not ready to execute. Grade: C

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