By Abraham Gutierrez
If the Oakland Raiders were asked to describe the way they feel heading into Week 5 of the 2015 NFL season, it would probably be “what a difference a week makes.” That’s because after starting the season with a 2-1 record, the Silver and Black had a golden opportunity to improve to 3-1 with a trip to the Windy City on the ledger.
Nevertheless, after falling into “Da Bears” trap, 22-20, this team now faces the distinct possibility of dropping down under .500 on the year. Trying to avoid the first losing skid of the young season, Jack Del Rio & Co. will now have to contend with Peyton Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos in Week 5.
Opening kickoff for this AFC West showdown is scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 1:25 p.m. PT on CBS-Sports. This game marks the 112th meeting between these bitter rivals, and even though Oakland leads the overall series 60-49-2, Denver comes in riding a seven-game win streak over the hated Raiders.
The last time these AFL foes faced each other dates back to (Dec. 28) last season, when Manning’s team put up a 47-spot on Tony Sparano’s squad in a 33-point thrashing at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Broncos On Offense
As difficult as it may be for Broncos fans to accept, Peyton Manning is at the twilight of his career and statistics support the notion that No.18 is on a steady decline. It’s almost hard to fathom that a team led by the great Manning could rank so poorly compared to the rest of the league.
Nevertheless, Broncos first-year head coach, Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator, Rick Dennison are very much responsible for the team’s uninspiring NFL rankings after four games. With the departure of star receiver, Demaryius Thomas, Denninson was tapped with the undesirable task of installing a brand new offensive scheme and terminology.
Thus far, the results speak for themselves, as 2015 NFL statistics tell a very compelling story. Uncharacteristically, Denver’s offense enters Week 5 ranked 29th in rushing yards per game (78.8), 28th in total yards per game (304), 25th in passing yards per contest (225.2), and 13th in points scored (24.2).
“I think there is enough flexibility formations and what not,” Dennison said prior to the start of the season. “Certainly, everybody is expected to run their pass pattern, whether they’re the primary receiver or not, and we’ll figure out how to get him the ball with formations, no problem.”
Broncos On Defense
Under the tutelage of former NFL head coach, Wade Phillips, the Broncos defense is unquestionable responsible for the team’s unblemished start. In his first season as Broncos DC, the 68-year-old from Orange, Texas, has been able to successfully implement his own version of the 3-4 scheme.
Even though the season is young, the Broncos defense ranks first in the NFL in total yards (275.5) and passing yards per game (185.2), second in points allowed (17.2), and its weakest point is still in the top-10, as the rushing resistance is good enough for seventh in the National Football League, allowing just 90.2 yards per contest.
Broncos Players To Watch
Offensively for the Broncos, the more things change, the more they stay the same, as this team will rely on Peyton’s ability to manage the game at the line of scrimmage. That’s why it comes as no surprise that the 14-time Pro Bowler is the player to watch on offense.
There’s no question that the 18th-year pro out of Tennessee is a bit out of his element with all the moving parts of this offense, evidenced by the fact that he’s off to his worst start as an NFL signal-caller. Through four games, Manning has completed 64 percent of his passes, going 98-for-154 for 968 yards, six touchdowns and a surprising five picks for a quarterback rating of 80.8.
On defense, Del Rio and his staff must account for two Broncos players at all times, outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib. The eight-time Pro Bowl, DE-turned-OLB kicks off Week 5 leading the NFL in sacks (4.5), while the 2010 NFL Defensive Back of the Year is second in the league with a pair of interceptions.
Broncos vs. Raiders 2015 NFL Week 5 Point Spreads
After going into last week’s game as betting favorites, Raider Nation is back to its usual underdog role. According to NFL Week 5 point spreads, the (4-0) Denver Broncos [-6] will invade the O.co Coliseum as six-point favorites, the (2-2) Oakland Raiders [+6] will have a cushion of two field goals, and the OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 43½ points in the East Bay.
Abe Gutierrez’s (Twitter: @GutierrezAbe) passion led him to ditch law school journey in order to launch his own publishing company. His expertise make him a valued addition to Examiner.com, AXS.com and the CBS-Sports family. Some of his work can be found on CBS-Miami (Dolphins), CBS-LosAngeles (Chargers), CBS-BayArea (Raiders), CBS-NewYork (NY Jets), CBS-TampaBay (Buccaneers), AXS.com, aExaminer.com and other online publications.