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'Monday Night Football': Five things to watch

Let's be real. Tonight's "Monday Night Football" matchup doesn't figure to pack 'em in at the sports bar.

Most folks don't give the Oakland Raiders (1-1) much of a chance against the high-flying Denver Broncos (2-0), but that's why we play the game.

It's easy to dismiss the Raiders when you consider what Peyton Manning and the Broncos have done in two weeks of play. Making quick work of the last two Super Bowl champions, Denver has outscored opponents 90-50, with Manning throwing nine touchdowns to zero interceptions.

On paper, Terrelle Pryor's in for a long night. Oakland's ground game is alive, but it will take Pryor's arm -- and a monumental showing on defense -- to slow the Broncos. Do the Raiders have a shot?

We're not in the business of promising miracles, but weirder things have happened on Monday night. Here are five items of note heading into the game:

  1. For the record, Oakland's game tape reveals a well-coached team through two weeks. On offense, the Raiders have rewritten their playbook to craft an attack that relies on Pryor's legs. Heading into Week 3, he led all signal-callers with 162 yards on the ground. Michael Vick passed him Thursday night, but Pryor has more yardage in two starts than C.J. Spiller, Frank Gore and Lamar Miller have in three. It's one area Pryor has Manning beat: Peyton has 167 yards rushing over the last 10 seasons he's played.
  1. Two players to keep an eye on: For the Broncos, athletic tight end Julius Thomas, who lit up the Ravens in the season opener for 110 yards and two scores before adding another touchdown against the Giants in Week 2. For Manning to find Thomas, Denver must fend off Lamarr Houston. The Raiders pass rusher ranks fourth among all 4-3 defensive ends, per Pro Football Focus, and second in the NFL with 12 quarterback hurries.
  1. The Broncos have won their last 13 regular-season tilts by seven or more points. The Chicago Bears hold the record at 16 games, a streak they built from 1941 to 1942, according to league research. Individually, Manning's nine touchdowns through two games ties an NFL record shared by Drew Brees (in 2009 with the Saints) and Charley Johnson (in 1965 with the St. Louis Cardinals). Peyton's the only player on earth to throw nine touchdowns without a pick through Week 2.
  1. Speaking of Manning, he's on pace to throw for 6,152 yards, 72 touchdowns and zero interceptions, but Oakland's defense is better than what the Giants rolled out in Week 2. The Raiders entered Week 3 allowing 15 points per game, tied for third best in the NFL. Coach Dennis Allen oversees a pass rush that recorded a league-leading nine sacks after two games, with seven different Raiders recording at least one takedown.
  1. That brings us to our matchup of the night: With the loss of Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady, career backup Chris Clark will be challenged early by Oakland's front seven. Clark represents a major drop-off, but Manning is a master of getting rid of the ball. Over the first two weeks of the season, Peyton owned the second highest quarterback rating (139.1) with 2.5 seconds or less in the pocket, per PFF. We keep mentioning Manning because he's just that good -- maybe the best of all time. We'll find out tonight if the Raiders can slow his roll.

*The "Around The League Podcast" broke down every Week 3 game. Click here to listen and subscribe. *

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