Oakland, CA - A strong start and revamped defense have first-year coach Josh McDaniels and the Denver Broncos feeling quite confident.
The Oakland Raiders are trying to build their own confidence in a shaky offense by improving on their first victory.
The Broncos look to continue their strong defensive play against the offensively challenged Raiders when the AFC West rivals meet Sunday in Oakland.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SPORTSBETTING.com have made the Broncos +1 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on the Broncos +1 (View NFL bet percentages).
Denver (2-0) hired McDaniels, 33, to replace Mike Shanahan in January, and he quickly changed the team's defensive scheme to a 3-4 hoping to get production out of a unit that struggled in 2008. It ranked 30th in points per game (28.0) and 29th in yardage allowed (374.6) while forcing a league-low 13 turnovers with 26 sacks.
"We just said, 'All right, we're going in that direction regardless,'" McDaniels said. "The 3-4 they played last year was more of a hybrid, gimmicky type of deal. I don't really think it created much success when they played it anyway."
The changes appear to be making a difference so far, as the Broncos have given up the fewest points in the NFL with 13 and their 507 yards allowed rank only behind the New York Jets' 482. They've also generated five turnovers.
"We are far from perfect, but we are playing good enough defense right now to give ourselves a chance," McDaniels said.
The defense came up big in last Sunday's 27-6 win over Cleveland, allowing 200 yards while recovering two fumbles and intercepting a pass. That came a week after the unit allowed 307 yards and had two interceptions in a 12-7 win at Cincinnati.
Elvis Dumervil is one of the biggest beneficiaries of McDaniels' new scheme after being asked to move from the line to outside linebacker, something he wasn't very fond of at first. He tied a team record by getting all four of Denver's sacks against the Browns, coming within one of his total from last season. He also forced one of the fumbles.
"He's just a relentless pass rusher," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "He's one of the best I've seen, and I've played with some great ones. He never stops, his motor is always going."
The Raiders (1-1) will try to solve Denver's rebuilt defense after last week's bizarre 13-10 win at Kansas City. The offense managed 166 yards while the defense gave up 409, the first time in the Raiders' 50-year history they've emerged with a victory after allowing more than 400 yards and gaining fewer than 200.
"Somehow, we found a way to win," coach Tom Cable said. "We feel good about that, but we also recognize that you've got to keep this real. This doesn't make the season. This doesn't make anybody feel like we've arrived, or anything like that. We've got a heck of a lot of work to do."
Much of those offensive struggles are attributed to shaky play from JaMarcus Russell, who completed 7 of 24 passes for 109 yards while getting sacked twice against the Chiefs.
Russell, however, has had flashes of excellent play in two games, showing why Oakland made him the top pick of the 2007 draft.
He went 4 of 7 for 67 yards to set up Darren McFadden's 5-yard TD run with 1:07 to play in Week 2, completing a nine-play, 69-yard drive in 91 seconds. That came a week after he threw a 57-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-14 to Louis Murphy with 2:34 left before the defense allowed a touchdown run 2:16 later to lose 24-20 to San Diego.
"That should give him great confidence because that's two weeks in a row he had a great 2-minute that put points on the board," tight end Zach Miller said. "He just needs to focus on what he did in that drive and just carry that through for the rest of the game."
Oakland will have to endure the loss of right guard Robert Gallery, who is out four to six weeks after breaking a bone in his left leg last Sunday.
The Broncos' quarterback situation is a bit more stable with Kyle Orton, who has completed 55.4 percent of his passes for 506 yards and two touchdowns. One of his TD passes, though, came on a tipped ball that was turned into an 87-yard game-winning score by Brandon Stokley with 11 seconds left against the Bengals.
Denver had six plays of 25 yards or more against Cleveland, including a 45-yard scoring run by Correll Buckhalter.
These teams split the season series last year with each winning as the visitor. The Broncos won 41-14 for their fifth victory in six meetings at Oakland.
Posted: 9/23/09 11:44PM ET