Oakland Raiders vs. Denver Broncos: Keys to the Game

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Oct 4, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (83) is tackled by Oakland Raiders middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (50) during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

1. Cover the Tight End

Through four weeks, the most glaring issue the Raiders have had is their inability to cover tight ends. So far the Raiders have given up 31 receptions for 381 yards and six TD’s to opposing tight ends, with every opposing tight end the Raiders have faced scoring at least once, and all of them posting career bests in at least one category.

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The Broncos don’t have a particularly big-ticket tight end, but that hasn’t stopped Tyler Eifert, Crockett Gilmore or Gary Barnidge from having career days against the Raiders defense. Owen Daniels, the apparent #1 TE for the Broncos, is a veteran and two-time Pro Bowler who spent nearly his entire career with Gary Kubiak in Houston. He’s averaged 3.7 receptions a game for his career, but has caught only 12 passes through four games this year. Still, a veteran tight end, in an offense he knows, with Peyton Manning in the pocket, could spell another disaster for the Raiders unless something is done to take Daniels out of the game.

Of course, Manning has plenty of other weapons available to him, like Damariyus Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and the Raiders have given up pretty good games to a couple of opposing wideouts (Steve Smith and Brian Hartline, notably). But of the eight touchdown passes the Raiders have allowed through four weeks, opposing tight ends have accounted for six. If this option can be taken away from the Broncos, it could force Manning to look to a wide receiver in the red zone, and the Raiders have only allowed two touchdowns to wideouts all year.

Next: Keys to the Game: Pressure Manning