Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos Preview: Key Matchups

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Sep 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (10) catches a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Denver won the game 31-24. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Raiders’ Secondary vs. Demaryius Thomas/Emmanuel Sanders

While this may seem like a David and Goliath story due to the lack of talent and surplus of injuries Oakland has in their secondary, it serves as a key matchup that will ultimately determine how close this game is in the fourth quarter.

With Oakland’s top defensive back T.J. Carrie officially ruled out, it will be up to Neiko Thorpe, D.J. Hayden, and recently added free agent David Amerson to hold down the fort at the cornerback position. While Amerson has quietly become a bright spot of Oakland’s secondary, the sample size is simply too small to draw the conclusion that he can stay consistent against top receivers.

On the other hand, Thorpe and Hayden have too often been victimized by opposing receivers, as the two have yet to find their rhythm in defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.’s new defense. Though Thorpe is seemingly getting more love from the media, both cornerbacks have noticeably struggled over the last few weeks. With Denver receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders coming into Oakland next week, it will take significant effort from both Norton and the Raiders’ secondary to weaken the impact of two talented receivers.

Thomas and Sanders have combined for 58 receptions, 668 yards and three touchdowns in four games.

The game plan is simple. Oakland must take advantage of Manning’s inability to throw a consistently accurate deep ball, and in turn, focus a lot of their efforts into limiting short passes and making tackles after the catch. Though the talent isn’t quite there for the Raiders right now, the position group must show improvement in executing a game plan if they wish to come out on top.