Here’s a game that both teams need to win. The Denver Broncos couldn’t be at a much lower point as far as morale goes, and a few more performances like last week’s will surely spell the end of the Tim Tebow era. Meanwhile, the Oakland Raiders need to rebound from their dreadful showing against the Kansas City Chiefs and try to quiet the critics of the Carson Palmer trade. Whichever team loses this game will be facing questions about their quarterback all week, and while it may not have a huge impact on the Broncos’ season, the Raiders can’t afford such a distraction in the middle of a division race.
Both of these teams were about as bad as they could be in their last games, so win or lose, both teams need to show that they’ve improved. The Broncos in particular need to show improvement or select players could be benched in the near future as John Fox attempts to salvage some wins out of the season. For the Raiders, it’s all about getting the win, not looking pretty. An ugly game is to be expected with Palmer making his first start, but as long as he shows some improvement from the last game and gets the win, things are on track for Oakland. Now, let’s get to the meat of the article.
1) How much did the bye week help Palmer?
It’s absolutely critical that Palmer shows some measure of improvement in this game, not that it should be difficult with as bad as he was two weeks ago. While teams like the Patriots can adapt to almost anything with their experience and leadership, the Raiders haven’t been in a playoff hunt since 2002 and aren’t prepared to deal with the distraction of a quarterback controversy. With the picks they gave up to acquire Palmer, everybody in Oakland, from the fans to the players to the front office, expects Palmer to take the Raiders to the next level. It won’t be long before fan discontent reaches a distracting level if Palmer follows up the Week 7 stinker with a few more bad games. In a competitive AFC West, the Raiders need to be at their best to make the playoffs this year and they won’t be if Palmer doesn’t play well, whether as a direct result of his play or as a result of the distraction it would bring. Nobody should expect him to already be in top form, but Palmer needs to show improvement and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to against a Denver defense that sometimes falls apart against the pass.
2) Broncos right tackle vs. Kamerion Wimbley
I say “Broncos right tackle” because Orlando Franklin just returned to practice Wednesday and isn’t guaranteed to play, but even if he does, the Broncos face a bad matchup with their right tackle blocking Wimbley in the nickel package. Franklin (-14.2) has had a rough rookie year, but his recent performances have been awful as he’s had to protect Tebow’s blind side. Besides the last two games, the only time he’s played as poorly as he has since Tebow became the starter was opening day, when Wimbley terrorized him for six pressures. See a recipe for disaster here? Considering the only thing keeping Franklin from being benched until he gets better (or a right-handed quarterback becomes the starter) is the fact that the Broncos don’t have anybody else worth throwing out there, we certainly do. Wimbley is coming off his only game graded in the red thus far, but don’t count on a repeat.
3) Will the Broncos be able to run the ball with Tebow at quarterback?
The first few times that Tebow played in the NFL, teams didn’t have their game plans quite right. Though they may not have respected him as a passer, they still treated him as one for the most part and the run game actually improved with Tebow at quarterback, even before you count his own runs. Now, teams are figuring out that all they have to do to beat Tebow is stack the line and play man coverage (in an era where teams play less and less man as time goes by), sometimes bringing both safeties into the box. At the NFL level, a quarterback needs to be able to beat one-on-one coverage, especially when both safeties are disregarding the pass and giving absolutely no respect to the passing game.
The Lions beat the Broncos playing almost exclusively in man coverage, so until Tebow improves as a passer the question isn’t whether or not he can beat teams through the air when they stack the box, it’s can the Broncos find a way to get something out of their run game when teams have eight or even nine guys in the box? It certainly isn’t an easy task, but it’s the only way they’re going to win games with Tebow at quarterback until he improves as a passer. Against the Raiders talented defensive line, the Broncos already have a tough task ahead of them running the ball. How will they get it done with Tyvon Branch cheating up near the line of scrimmage every play? Denver will have to find something that works; otherwise it’s going to be a game very similar to the one they just played against Detroit.
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