John Madden
John Madden
Madden: MNF preview
By John Madden

Last season, this matchup was a turning point in both teams' seasons. Going into the game, everyone thought the Broncos would win easily. The Raiders had lost four games in a row and looked like they were on their way out. Meanwhile, the Broncos were playing pretty well.

But Rich Gannon was darn near perfect. He completed 34 of 38 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns, and set an NFL record by completing 21 consecutive passes in one game. The Broncos' defense couldn't put any pressure on him. The defensive backs were playing off the wide receivers, which left all the short stuff and Gannon took advantage of what they were giving him.

Opposing teams quickly learned that you had to press Oakland's receivers; you couldn't lay off them or they'd just eat you up with those short passes and short-crossing routes. But the Raiders aren't quite the team they were last year, especially without WR Jerry Porter, the complexion of that offense has really changed. RB Charlie Garner is the only player with any speed. Therefore, there's no reason for defenses to play back and worry about getting beat deep.

It will be especially interesting to see how Jake Plummer performs this week. He's always been an erratic quarterback. And now I'm wondering how that separated shoulder will effect him. The Broncos' offensive line has to protect him. He's just one good hit away from Steve Beuerlein being in the game, and another play away from newly re-signed Danny Kanell being in the game.

Remember, the Broncos have one of the NFL's best players in RB Clinton Portis. Portis was also injured last week on a hit by Chargers safety Kwamie Lassiter, but chest X-rays were negative and he's expected to play against the Raiders. He's one of a few NFL players who's got speed as well as the ability to make all the moves. He reminds me of players like O.J. Simpson, Tony Dorsett, and Eric Dickerson who were also able to mix both assets. Even great running backs like Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders lacked speed. If Portis stays healthy, he could end up in a very elite class of NFL running backs.

I'm sure last year's game is on the minds of the Broncos players and coaching staff. They'll want to make sure it doesn't happen again.

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