The Oakland Raiders defense has been a pleasant surprise so far this season.
Even more surprising is that Oakland, at least for now, is ranked in the top-10 in passing yards and rushing yards allowed according to ESPN.
The Raiders are also tied at second place for sacks obtained with nine.
Granted, one of its games was played against the Jacksonville Jaguars who are ranked dead last in the NFL.
However, it is the same defense that limited Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck to less than 200 yards passing and sacked him four times.
After years of being plagued by highly-paid underachievers, head coach Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver have taken a reconstructed squad bandaged up with overlooked free agents and produced a defense that appears to be on the rise.
Now the Raiders will see what its new-look defense is truly made of as it looks forward to playing the Denver Broncos on Monday.
With three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady out for Denver because of a foot injury, replacement Chris Clark will make his first NFL start as an offensive tackle, ESPN reported.
Certainly the Raiders will try to capitalize on Clady’s injury and attack the Broncos’s left side.
What will determine whether the Raiders can make plays in Denver’s backfield, however, won’t be who is on the Broncos’ offensive line but who will be behind it.
Because of Peyton Manning’s ability to get the ball out quickly and make changes at the line of scrimmage, the Raiders’ pass rushers may not be able to touch him despite Clady’s absence.
Therefore, one of the key matchups in this game will be Peyton Manning versus Jason Tarver.
Tarver has shaped the Raiders defense to attack the quarterback, but Manning has negated opposing pass rushers by outsmarting them time and time again.
If Tarver can make it so that Manning is constantly pressured, making him rush his throws, then the Raiders may have a chance to accomplish what most think is impossible and steal one in Denver.
Easier said than done.
The task may appear too daunting for the Raiders on paper, but that is why the games are played on the field.