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Oakland Raiders: Key Matchups to Look for Against Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football

Rushing Offense, Pass Rush Need to Be in Top Shape on Monday Night

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | After a sloppy win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Oakland Raiders head into Monday Night Football as 14-point underdogs to their arch-rivals, the Denver Broncos.

A two-touchdown line is an extreme line for any matchup, and this one seems to be just as over inflated.

There's no question that after two weeks the Broncos are the best team in the NFL. They've outscored their two opponents 90-50 and have emerged as the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Regardless of how well the Raiders have played their first two games, competing with a high-powered team like the Broncos is going to be a daunting task. Throw in the fact it's a prime time game and the implications suddenly become that much greater.

But don't count the Raiders out just yet. This team could easily be 2-0, but costly turnovers against the Indianapolis Colts made sure that didn't happen.

Saying the Raiders can outright win this one is too extreme. They still have several problems to address, and the Broncos are an experienced, well-coached team led by one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.

And it's in their building.

Here are a few matchups to watch out for on Monday night:

Oakland's Rushing Offense vs. Denver's Rushing Defense

After the first two weeks, the Raiders lead the league in rushing at 198.5 yards per game. It's an astronomical upgrade from last season when Oakland couldn't even run the ball past the line of scrimmage.

The Broncos, on the other hand, lead the league in rushing defense by allowing just 40.5 yards per game.

Darren McFadden had his best game in two years last week when he total over 170 yards, including 129 on the ground. Even though it was against the Jaguars, it gave McFadden some much-needed confidence heading into a crucial game.

When running in the power-blocking scheme, McFadden has owned the Broncos. In 2010 and 2011, he averaged nearly 145 yards per game against Denver.

The Broncos will have to worry about McFadden, and they'll also have to watch Terrelle Pryor who has 162 rushing yards in his first two games. Not bad for a quarterback.

Oakland's Pass Rush vs. Denver's Offensive Line

The Broncos were dealt a huge blow when they lost their best offensive lineman Ryan Clady for the year last week.

Clady was Peyton Manning's most valuable lineman since he protected his blindside. He allowed just one sack in over 1,100 snaps last year and was only penalized four times for holding.

The Raiders will look to exploit this and try to continue their impressive start in the sack department. After Week 2, they were tied for first in the NFL with nine sacks.

The Raiders didn't even record their ninth sack last year until Week 8.

They're blitzing from all levels and it's worked so far. Manning picks apart defenses if they blitz and don't get to him in time, so Oakland will be looking to get to No. 18 fast.

Terrelle Pryor vs. The Elements

Terrelle Pryor will be making just the fourth start of his young NFL career, and he'll have to do it in a hostile environment that absolutely hates the Raiders.

He'll also have to do it on Monday Night Football with millions of people watching him.

Pryor regressed a bit from his performance against Indianapolis when he astonished the league by throwing for over 200 yards and running for over 100 as well. Now that teams are able to get more film on him, he'll have to adjust to whatever defenses throw at him.

He hasn't really extended the field early on in the season, and it may be time to do that against the Broncos. Denver ranks near the bottom of the league against the pass and Pryor needs to exploit this if the Raiders want to win the game.

Denver is excellent playing tight defense, especially across the middle of the field. Pryor's conservative approach will not work against this defense, and sooner or later he'll have to break out of his shell anyway and throw the ball downfield.

The rowdy crowd, the high altitude, the nationally televised audience...Pryor will definitely have his hands full on Monday night.

Steven Slivka is a freelance writer for the Oakland Raiders. You can follow him on Twitter @StevenSlivka.

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