Posts Tagged ‘Peyton Manning’

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Former NFL veteran Mike Pritchard, a graduate of North Las Vegas’ Rancho High School, believes Peyton Manning will have the game of his life.

By W.G. Ramirez

As I approached my 5th annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll, I had a chance to catch up to former Rancho High School star Mike Pritchard, who went on to star at the University of Colorado and then in the NFL for three teams: the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Pritchard, who is the color commentator for UNLV football and co-host of the Mitch and Pritch radio show in Las Vegas, has plenty of ties to some key components in this year’s game, as he played with John Elway and has been coached by both Gary Kubiak and Wade Phillips.

Retired for 15 years, Pritchard said he still gets excited this time of the year, watching the pre-game festivities leading up to Super Sunday.

“You try to live vicariously through everyone involved in the game,” he said. “You have a rooting interest and you kind of get excited about that.”

Pritchard said he remembers a time when he questioned his retirement, something most veterans go through a year after retiring, as the itch to return to the field remains for the first couple of seasons you become a spectator.

“After a season goes by, you start training and you start to think you can still do it,” Pritchard said. “It takes a couple of years to realize it’s over. It’s not like any other sport where you can retire, and then come back after a few years. There is only one guy who I can think of who did that and that was Randall Cunningham.”

But that was then, in the early 2000s.

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Mike Pritchard, who won a national championship with Colorado, played for the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks during his time in the NFL.

Now, Pritchard enjoys his time behind the mic, alongside his partner and co-host Mitch Moss, during one of the busiest times of the day. The two share their thoughts with Southern Nevada, speaking on the hottest topics in sports and daily breaking news. Most recently, that included the Oakland Raiders’ pending move to a new location. When Las Vegas entered the conversation, both Pritchard and Moss were two of the first to discuss the issue.

Pritchard isn’t sold this is the opportunity Las Vegas has been looking for, and isn’t sold the Raiders are coming to Sin City. But he does believe a top-notch stadium is the first step, and there is more important priority at hand, before landing an NFL franchise.

“If they’re going to build a stadium, it should be for our city and our university,” Pritchard said. “Can we attract an NFL franchise? Absolutely. But we need to build this for ourselves. If we don’t have that infrastructure, we’ll never have that option or decision to housing an NFL franchise.”

It’s not as if there isn’t talent spewing from Southern Nevada. Bishop Gorman High School recently completed its second straight undefeated season, and has been considered a national championship team by certain pundits the last two years. UNLV coach Tony Sanchez just announced a first-rate recruiting class in his second season in charge. And in Sunday’s Super Bowl, there will be two active players who went to high school in Las Vegas, and a third who is on a practice squad.

Brandon Marshall is a linebacker for the Denver Broncos, Ben Jacobs is a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers and Cam Jefferson is an offensive lineman on the Broncos’ practice squad.

“I love it. I think it’s great,” Pritchard said. “When I was at Rancho, there were 10 schools. If you made D-I or made it to the league, every one talked about it. Because of the growth in the valley, guys are getting more opportunities. Vegas is definitely on the map. And it speaks to the talent here and the guys making the most of their opportunities once they graduate high school.”

As for today’s game, Pritchard sees a defensive tussle ensuing early on, knowing how Kubiak and Phillips coach. He said watching the Broncos this year has been like reviewing a blueprint of teams he played on, while coached by both of them. It’s also why he believes the Broncos will send The Sheriff – Peyton Manning – off into the sunset with another Super Bowl ring.

“Coach Kubak has played and coached in Super Bowl games,” Pritchard said. “He understands what it takes to get to a Super Bowl and he certainly understands what it takes to win one.”

Pritchard said this year’s team is modeled after the 1998-99 Denver Broncos, who defeated the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII.

“You have two great defenses, and any time that happens, you have an opportunity for a great game,” he said. Carolina will try to dictate this one early on, because they’re confident about their speed. They run the ball successfully. Carolina has done such a great job of getting turnovers. Their turnover margin is incredible. They are a read and react football. At some point the action will be fast and furious. I think these are the two best teams in the league.

“Denver will try to run, but Peyton will have to make throws to help the Broncos win. I expect Peyton Manning to have an excellent game. I don’t think he’s going to make a lot of mistakes out there.”

PRITCHARD’S PREDICTION: I believe Peyton Manning will have his the game of his life. Broncos, 24-20


 

Here is my 5th Annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll for Super Bowl 50:

Laz Alonso, actor. Going to be a defense intensive game but Carolina and Cam are on fire and too much for Denver. Panthers, 35-14

Mark Anderson, LV Review Journal. Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will help the Broncos cover, but not cover. Panthers 24-20

Paul Anka, singer/songwriter/entertainer. Panthers will win. I watched my friend Eddie DeBartolo get voted into the Hall of Fame, and now I’ll watch the MVP hoist the trophy. It’ll be close won. Panthers 24-20

R.J. Bell, Pregame.com. Carolina is the better team, but likely not as good as the Panthers have appeared so far in the playoffs. Denver likely better than they seem, and the Broncos big game experience should help them keep Super Bowl 50 close. Panthers 21-20

Kevin Bollinger, FOX-TV Las Vegas. While everybody would love the storybook ending for Peyton Manning, the diminished skills make it tough for Denver to come back after falling behind. Panthers 27-16

Bryce Brentz, MLB player. Logic says to go with Cam’s Panthers, but I would love nothing more than to see Manning go out on top (if he does call it a career) so screw logic! Broncos 35-28

Jared Brentz, long-drive golf champion. I have to believe Payton goes out on top. I mean he deserves this ending. Broncos 21-17

Cindy Brunson, Pac 12 Network. I’m going with the guy/team that has me trying Dannon Oikos yogurt and I don’t even really like yogurt. Call it the power of Cam Newton, the MVP who threw 35 TD passes and ran for 10 more this season. Carolina reminds me so much of the Super Bowl XLVIII Champion Seahawks with a stifling defense and dual threat QB. The game will be close early, but I think the Panthers will prevail. Panthers 35-21

Chet Buchanan, KLUC-98.5 FM, Las Vegas. I like The Sheriff riding off into the sunset, mostly on the shoulders of the #OrangeCrush16. Pat/Caitlyn Bowlen is able to get his face to move enough to say, “And THIS one’s for PEYTON!” Broncos 27-20

Frank Caliendo, Comedian. Panthers 30 – Broncos 17 or flip that. Broncos 30 – Panthers 17. Can I do that? (In his own voice)

Steve Carp, LV Review Journal. Cam Newton backs up all the talk and Carolina closes out a magical season in style. Panthers 38-13

Freddie Coleman, ESPN. I think the Panthers defense makes the Broncos offense play one dimensional and their defense won’t be able to hold up. Panthers 27-16

Kevin Curry, founder Fit Men cook. I’m rooting for Cam Newton! He’s a beast. Any dude that can throw the ball and run it like a linebacker has my vote. He takes me back to the early Vince Young days, and of course he’s from Texas and I’m a Texas guy. Panthers 28-24.

Tim Dahlberg, Associated Press. Peyton Manning falls one Super Bowl ring short of his brother, thanks to Josh Norman, who cements his place on Thieves Avenue with a last minute pick to seal the first SB win for the Panthers. Panthers 27-24

Dave DeNatale, ESPN 850 AM, Cleveland. Peyton Manning in his Nationwide voice: “Painful way to call it quits.” Panthers 31-20

Randy Faehnrich, UFC, I’ve been a big believer in Denver’s defense all year. If there is a way to stop Cam, it’s to put pressure on him, and you’d be hard-pressed to find two better at applying pressure than Ware and Miller. I think the game really depends on how those two perform, and I’m banking they perform well. Give me the Broncos and Peyton Manning w/ the storybook ending. Broncos 24-20

Royce Feour, Retired Las Vegas Review-Journal sports writer. Cam Newton will be better than the old veteran Peyton Manning. Panthers 27-17

Chris Fedor, Cleveland.com. The Panthers proved to be the league’s best team during the regular season and will punctuate it Sunday, led by Cam Newton, who will show he belongs on the league’s biggest stage. Panthers, 27-17.

Marcus Fizer, retired NBA player. My pick is with the Carolina Panthers and with #SuperCam. They are playing on a level unmatched. Although you can never count out “The Sheriff” Peyton Manning, I think Cam is ready to change the dynamics of the NFL QB! Hoping for a close game, I love thrillers. Panthers 48-42

C.T. Fletcher, Powerlifter/Fitness, no score, just a mother fu*kin Broncos win! Manning and the Broncos. Admittedly not a huge fan of either team. But it’s probably Manning’s last game. He’s 40 and the underdog. I gotta pull for the “old man” cause I’m one. Gotta pick the underdog cause I’m one. I think Manning and I love to prove all the fu*kin experts wrong!

Vernon Fox, Retired NFL player. While I would love to root for my Broncos and fellow Vegas Cimarron Memorial-alum Brandon Marshall, I have a hard time believing even with the stellar defense, that Denver slows down this high-powered Panther team! Panthers 28-17

Randy Gatewood, Retired AFL player. I like the Panthers because they have been very consistent all year and they have the league MVP in Cam Newton. As great as Denver’s defense is, I don’t think they completely shut down Newton. And I think Cam Newton will also be the Super Bowl MVP. Let’s get ready to rumble! Panthers, 24-20

Bud Geracie, San Jose Mercury News. Panthers too fast and too hot. Panthers 23-14

Mike Gillespie, ABC-TV Columbia, S.C. Despite it being Manning’s last game and a pro-Denver crowd, Von Miller won’t be dabbing. That Panthers secondary is far too fast and smart to allow Manning to throw like he did against the Pats. Plus Newton, unlike Brady, is a true threat with his legs. Manning’s last game is a loss to the Panthers in Santa Clara. Panthers, 27-13

Geoff Grammer, Albuquerque Journal. I cover college sports in New Mexico so what do I know about big football games? I’ll take better story (Peyton rides off a winner) over better team for this one. Broncos 20-17

Ed Graney, LV Review Journal. If Peyton Manning can’t win this on his own, I’m sure his attorneys will send a few guys in black coats to do it for him. Panthers 24-20

Paul Gutierrez, ESPN, Panthers 27, Broncos 26.

Merril Hoge, ESPN. Teams win championships and the footers to a Champion football team are the Offensive and Defensive lines!! The Panthers win both of those match ups. Panthers 28-21

Jay Kornegay, Westgate LV SuperBook. Broncos start off on a good foot and puts the Panthers in an unfamiliar position. Denver’s D forces two critical 4th quarter turnovers and holds on. Broncos 24-20

T.J. Lavin, BMX Legend, Tom Brady 35-27!

Gilbert Manzano, LV Review Journal. The ferocious Broncos defense will give the Panthers fits early, but I see Cam Newton rallying in the fourth quarter and dabbing with the Lombardi. Panthers 27-24

Brian Mahoney, Associated Press. They’re Stephen Curry’s team, and Curry’s teams don’t lose in the Bay Area. Panthers 27-17

Chris Murray, Reno Gazette Journal. Cam Newton and the Panthers dance and dab their way to a Super Bowl title as a scourge of white Baby Boomers flood their local newspapers with letters to the editors title “What about the kids?!?!?” Oh, my, gosh, the kids! Panthers 27-17

Rock Newman, Retired Boxing Manager/Promoter. Owner Gibraltar Promotions LLC. It’s the year of Cam and the Panthers. Dab baby Dab! Panthers, 31-28.

David Purdum, ESPN. The best thing Peyton Manning has done this season: throw interceptions. Carolina’s D is a turnover machine. I feel like Manning’s good for two picks, which is just too much to overcome, at least for me to bet on the Broncos. I know all the sharps are Denver, but here’s a pro tip: Sharps lose, too. Panthers 27-16

Tim Reynolds, Associated Press. Peyton Manning gets the fairytale ending. Broncos 27-23

Anthony Rodriguez, KMET Online Radio, Denver. Broncos 23-20.

Jeffrey Seals, UNLV Media Relations. Luke Kuechly and the Panther defense will turn the lights out on Peyton Manning’s storied career. Panthers 33-13

Marc Spears, Yahoo! Sports. I’m a Raiders fan. Panthers 99, Broncos 0.

Danny Webster, Bleacher Report. The Broncos did well against Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. Denver’s defense hasn’t played a quarterback like Cam Newton. Not only will Carolina’s defense do enough to stifle Denver’s offense, but this year’s MVP will throw for 225 yards and run for another 100 as Carolina wins its first Super Bowl. Panthers 27-17

Jamieson Welsh, The Score 670-AM Las Vegas. It’s Cam’s league now. Panthers 24-20

Matt Youmans, LV Review Journal. The Panthers pack more big-play firepower, but the Broncos’ top-ranked defense can do enough to contain Cam Newton. I like Carolina to win, but on a neutral field this line looks high. Panthers 24-20

FINAL TALLY: Panthers 31, Broncos 10, Caliendo 1, Lavin 1

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By W.G. Ramirez

Instant classic?

Pfft, the Seattle Seahawks looked more like Miley Cyrus, coming through MetLife Stadium like a wrecking ball in their 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos, making the No. 1 ranked offense look more like the Icebox and the Little Giants in their first half against the Cowboys from the 1994 motion picture.

Heck, something tells me Goldie Hawn and Levander ‘Bird’ Williams (Mykel T. Williamson) and the Wildcats from the 1986 motion picture could’ve done better than the Broncos did on Sunday.

The Seahawks’ stealth-like defense was simply too fast, and too much for the Broncos, and while the sharp bettors got well, the sports books made a fortune after bettors plunked down a Nevada record $119.4 million on the game, according to figures released Monday by the Gaming Control Board.

Last year’s $98.9 million was the highest in Super Bowl history, and was simply blown away by the allure of quarterback Peyton Manning and the publicly favored Broncos. Attracting nearly 70 percent of the action, overall, the Broncos went from a 1-point underdog at the open after the conference championship games on Jan. 19, to as high as a 2.5-point favorite on Super Bowl Sunday.

The wiseguys – including renowned sports bettor Billy Walters – closed the gap late, taking the Seahawks plus the points, while a fraction of their wagers were on the moneyline. Though the sharps made their fair share, the state’s 183 books held $19.67 million, a win percentage of 16.5.

While weather forecasters predicted a blizzard a year before the big game, and again forecasted snow just a few weeks ago, the total was never really swayed that much from the opening number of 47. In fact, when weather reports revealed there would be clear skies would and temperatures would be in the 40s, the total was bet up, to 48 at some places, settling in at 47.5 just before kickoff. The game landed on 51 points.

Special point spreads on the Seahawks, such as Seattle -14.5, paid big prices for the underdog bettors. Anyone laying -3.5 with Seattle took in +190; if they laid -7.5 the Seahawks paid +360; and anyone thinking blowout, and laying -14.5 points, got +650 with Seattle.

Proposition bettors who took a shot on a safety occurring third-straight year made money just 12 seconds into the game, when the snap sailed by Manning and into the end zone. The “Will there be a safety” prop paid as high as +600 at some places, and +550 at most other spots.

Ironically, 12 seconds into the second half paid another specialty prop, as Seattle’s Percy Harvin raced the length of the field when he returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. The odds of him scoring a touchdown in the game were +200. Also paying out on that score was “Will there be a special teams or defensive touchdown,” at +160.

Another prop that paid a decent plus-price was “Will either team score four straight times.” Seattle helped bettors of that prop out at the 12-minute mark of the second quarter, when Marshawn Lynch plunged into the end zone from a yard out to help the Seahawks extend their lead to 14-0. The extra point made it a surprising 15-0, Seattle.

It should come as no surprise after their dominating win, the Super Bowl champion Seahawks are a 5-to-1 favorite to win Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz. What is a surprise is that the aging Broncos are second in line, at 7-1. Seattle’s division-rival, San Francisco, is next at 8-1, followed by New England (15-1) and Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, who are both 20-1. The Houston Texans, who have the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, are 50-1 to win next year’s Super Bowl, while Jacksonville and Oakland are the longest shots to win a title, at 150-1.

CELEBRITY/ATHLETE/MEDIA POLL – When it was all said and done, 49 people contributed to my annual Celebrity/Athlete/Media poll.

Twenty of those prognosticators correctly picked the Seahawks to win it all, including proud Seattle-native Cindy Brunson, the easy-on-the-eyes former ESPN sports anchor who is now an Analyst/Reporter for Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports. Brunson tweeted me to ask if she had won anything for her correct pick, jokingly of course. I did tell her she had bragging rights for a year for her hometown team, to which she replied: “Right on!” Brunson was all over her Seahawks the entire season, and had been calling for a championship via twitter long before the playoffs.

Others picking the Seahawks in my poll were: Mark Anderson (Las Vegas Review Journal), Paul Anka (Singer/Songwriter), Ray Brewer (Las Vegas Sun), Chet Buchanan, (Las Vegas Radio Personality), Steve Carp (Las Vegas Review Journal), Randall Cunningham (Retired NFL Quarterback), Tim Dahlberg (Associated Press), Sean DeFrank (Vegas 7 Magazine), Will Edwards (Late-night talk-show host, Las Vegas), Ed Graney (Las Vegas Review Journal), Steve Guiremand (MyLVsports.com), Paul Gutierrez (ESPN), Matt Jacob (Vegas 7), Anthony Robles (Former NCAA Wrestling Champion), Jeffrey Seals (UNLV Media Relations), Jerry Stackhouse (Retired NBA All-Star), Danny Webster (UNLV’s Rebel Yell), Roy Wood Jr. (Comedian) and Matt Youmans (Las Vegas Review Journal Sports).

For the complete poll, read my BLOG from last week.

By Jesse Granger and W.G. Ramirez

San Francisco 49ers (-1, 41) @ Carolina Panthers

Colin Kaepernick will lead the 49ers into Carolina looking for his fourth career playoff win. It’s a rematch from week 10 when the Panthers left San Francisco with a 10-9 victory.  Carolina has found success against the 49ers, going 15-3 against the spread since 1995.  The major question for the Panthers going in is how Cam Newton will perform in his first career playoff game.

JESSE’S TAKE – Carolina enter this week in a familiar spot, as the underdogs. The Panthers have been underrated and overlooked all season, so it’s only fitting that Carolina is getting a point at home. Last week home field didn’t appear to be much of an advantage, as three of the four teams went home for good. What was the common factor in all three of those games? The road team was simply the better team.  That’s the case here. While Newton and Kaepernick are similar players, Newton has yet to experience playoff football, so I like the 49ers to win and cover the point.

WILLIE’S TAKE – Carolina looked good on Nov. 10, when it traveled to San Francisco and completely shut down the 49ers in a 10-9 victory. And since they’ve lost three of their first four games, the Panthers have gone on an 11-1 run and roll into the postseason one of the hottest teams left in the playoffs. I look at it like this: they did it once, why not again?  Remember, this is the same Panthers team that also beat the Patriots and Saints on Tobacco Road, and since a season-opening home loss to Seattle, the Panthers are on winning runs of 7-0 SU and 6-0-1 ATS at home. Take the home dog.

San Diego Chargers @ Denver Broncos (-8′, 54′)

These two AFC West rivals will meet up for the third time this season after the two split in the regular season. The Broncos have been one of the biggest public plays all year, and for good reason as they finished 10-6 against the spread, but Phillip Rivers has played well in Denver, going 6-1-1 against the spread in his last eight visits to the Mile High City.

JESSE’S TAKE – Peyton Manning has lit up scoreboards like a Christmas tree, and thrown record books into a paper shredder this season. His all-time records in passing touchdowns and yardage are all the convincing one needs that Denver can torch the Chargers.  But in the last meeting, San Diego kept the ball out of Manning’s hands and walked out of Denver with a 27-20 win. The biggest difference for Denver this time around is Wes Welker is back from his concussion, and the weather will be warm Sunday afternoon.  Denver ends the Chargers’ Cinderella run with a double-digit win.

WILLIE’S TAKE – I’m not going to lie, I think this is Peyton Manning’s year to get back to the Super Bowl, and can’t wait to see him play in the AFC Championship against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. You really can’t underestimate the Manning’s offensive prowess, I admit that. However, make note the Broncos’ last four victories against teams with a .500 record or better has come by way of an average of 7.0 points. These two have already split two close games in the regular season, and it’s been the guest winning each game. San Diego, which has won five straight and has covered four of those games, is playing with too much confidence. Take the road pup.

By W.G. Ramirez

While three of Indianapolis’ wins this season were against teams considered less-than impressive (saving room for an opinion on the Dolphins), it’s two wins in the last three weeks that have everyone noting there’s nothing fluky – er, Lucky – about the Colts.

On the contrary, behind quarterback Andrew Luck, these Colts were anything but fortuitous in a dominating 27-7 win at San Francisco on Sept. 22, and in a 34-28 home shootout victory over the Seahawks.

Line1_PROOFThe second-year quarterback threw a pair of touchdown passes and guided the Colts on two time-consuming scoring drives in the fourth quarter, taking the lead on Donald Brown’s 3-yard TD run with 8:55 to play, last week against Seattle. It was his ninth winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, the most through the first 21 games by any quarterback that began his career dating back to 1970.

Now, in the Colts and Bolts’ first meeting since Peyton Manning was yelling “Omaha” for Indy, Luck is looking to run his string of good fortune to 3-0 with a suitcase in hand.

Meanwhile, the Chargers are in after committing five turnovers in a loss at Oakland including three interceptions by Philip Rivers, who has two straight 400-yard passing games and three in four games. Though he looked awfully different than the quarterback who threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns to beat the Dallas Cowboys a couple weeks back, believe it or not, he could become the first quarterback in NFL history to have three straight 400-yard passing games.

He can’t get too cocky, though, as the Colts’ stingy pass defense has intercepted seven passes in five games. As a matter of fact, the Colts are tied for fourth in the league with a plus-6 turnover differential.

There are several angles to look at with these two teams, as it could go from being a defensive struggle to an offensive shootout very quickly. It could come down to the end and take a stroke of ‘Luck’ or ‘Bolt’ of lightning, you just never know.

Let’s take a look at the key matchup…

KEY SHOWDOWN: Andrew Luck vs. Chargers’ Defense Line

Honestly, as impressive as the Colts were in their win over Seattle, it was a physical game in which – let’s face it – Indianapolis did after rally from after a horrendous start that included a blocked punt to give the Seahawks an early 12-0 lead. Now the Colts are making their third long road trip in four weeks.

True, they won the first two roadies at San Francisco and Jacksonville by a combined score of 64-10, and they can take solace in knowing the Chargers have allowed some glaring numbers on defense (432 yards per game). Then again, San Diego’s two wins came against highly explosive Philadelphia and the same Dallas team that almost knocked off Denver.

The Chargers will need to play exquisite on defense, if Luck plays his best game – something he’s been doing. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound quarterback is emerging quickly as the best young quarterback in the game, as he calls the signals and leads an offense as it’s supposed to be done. His fundamentals are near-flawless, and what has really matured him and separated him from the pack of others who broke out with him last year is his patience.

The biggest question about him, and we’ll all have to wait for the answer, is how will he do in his Monday night debut?

BY THE NUMBERS: Indianapolis (-2, 50) at San Diego

While Luck has spearheaded the Colts’ offense this season, it was the rushing game that was ranked 4th in the league overall to start Week 6; the passing game ranked 24th.

Indy’s pass defense has been stellar, as it came into the weekend 6th in the NFL. The rushing D has been less-than impressive, as it was 30th.

The Colts arrive in Southern California on ATS win streaks of 8-0 against losing teams, 6-3 on the highway, 8-1 on Monday Night Football, 4-1 in October and 12-5 dating back to last season.

Indianapolis has stayed under in 23 of its last 31 games dating back.

The Chargers came into Week 6 with the fifth-ranked offense overall, led by the fifth-best passing game. However, their defense has been lacking and entered the weekend ranked 27th overall. San Diego has been beaten by both facets, ranking 24th against the run and 27th against the pass.

The Bolts are tied for 28th at minus-8 in turnover differential.

San Diego checks into primetime on ATS runs of 5-0 after a straight-up loss and 4-1 overall. Conversely, the Bolts are mired in spread slides of 6-11 at home and 0-6 in the month of October.

In this series, however, the Chargers have covered 6 of 7 and the underdog is on a sterling 8-0 ATS run at the window. The under has cashed 5 of the last 6 meetings.

INJURY REPORT: COLTS: DNP (Did Not Practice): S LaRon Landry (ankle), LB Bjoern Werner (foot). LIMITED: LB Erik Walden (elbow). FULL: RB Stanley Havili (ankle), DT Ricky Jean Francois (groin). CHARGERS: DNP: LB Donald Butler (groin), LB Jarret Johnson (hamstring), CB Richard Marshall (groin), G Chad Rinehart (toe). LIMITED: T D.J. Fluker (calf). FULL: RB Ryan Mathews (concussion), CB Johnny Patrick (chest).

ON DECK: The Chargers will make their third trip across the country, while Indianapolis and Luck will play arguably the franchise’s biggest game in history.

San Diego is laying 7.5 at Jacksonville, while the Colts are catching 5.5 at home from Manning and the visiting Broncos.

By W.G. RamirezLine1_PROOF

There are some surprising teams still undefeated in the NFL, and tonight the Denver Broncos (2-0) must do their best job to not only swat the Oakland Raiders (1-1), but also put forth a dominating effort to keep pace with the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs, and yes, even the Miami Dolphins, from a mental standpoint.

In their first two games, the Broncos have experienced very little adversity in crushing the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants. Quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos have put up 40-plus points in both games and made offense look easy.

Point blank, Manning has been career-like. And, yes, I know the Broncos lost starting left tackle Ryan Clady to a season-ending Lisfranc foot injury, but there’s been plenty of time to prepare for this situation, and you best believe Manning has made it clear in no uncertain terms that he better be protected.

Oakland, which has split its first two games behind dual-threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor, is going to try to play keep-away and rely on a running attack that averaged a league-best 198.5 yards in the first two games.

Pryor has been a big part of the rushing game, as he already set a franchise record with 112 yards on the ground in the team’s season-opening loss at Indianapolis, while running back Darren McFadden rushed for 129 yards in last week’s 19-9 win over Jacksonville. McFadden boasts an AFC-best 223 yards.

Now Pryor and Run DMC must take on Denver’s run defense, which ranks first in the league. True, the Ravens and Giants abandoned the ground game against the Broncos because they both fell so far behind, and yes the Raiders’ run offense ranks first in the league, but that doesn’t mean Denver won’t pull ahead quickly and force Oakland to do the same thing. And beware when going to the passing game, Denver’s defense came into Week 2 leading the NFL with six interceptions.

Fact is, come 5:40 p.m. pacific time, a good ol’ fashioned AFC West rivalry will be in primetime, and it’ll come down to my key matchup in the game…

KEY SHOWDOWN: Manning’s offense vs. Oakland defense

It’s pretty cut and dry, isn’t it?

Manning’s passer rating is off the charts with a league-leading 131.0 after throwing for 769 yards with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions after the first two weeks. He’s the first quarterback to open the season with a 9-0 ratio.

And if the Raiders are going to have any chance, forget about the strength of their league-leading rushing offense (198.5 yards per game), they need to use their staunch defense that finished Week 2 tied for the league lead in sacks with nine.

Overall, Oakland’s defense ranks fourth in the league with an average of 261 yards allowed and will undoubtedly attempt to exploit Clady’s absence.

Manning has enough weapons to spread the wealth, however, with a trifecta of wideouts: Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker. And lest I forget to mention tight end Julius Thomas, not to mention former first-round draft pick Knowshon Moreno, who spotlighted the running game with a 93-yard, two-touchdown effort in last week’s win over the Giants, and is a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield.

Denver led the NFL in scoring by 24 points entering the week. Even after every team has played except these two, the Broncos still rank No. 1 overall with their offense – with 462 yards per game – and rank 3rd overall in points scored with 90.

Again, the Green Bay Packers (96) and Chicago Bears (95) rank No. 1 and 2, respectively, after they’ve played three games. The Broncos rank 3rd and still have tonight to play. Oh and by the way, Denver’s 45 points per game still ranks No. 1 – 13 points better than No. 2 Green Bay’s 32 ppg.

BY THE NUMBERS: Oakland at Denver (-14.5, 49)

Denver, which has won 13 consecutive regular-season games – the longest winning streak in the NFL – rolls into this game having covered 7 of 10 against AFC West opponents.

Manning, who is 12-4 on Monday nights, is a perfect 6-0 versus the AFC West since joining the Broncos last season, and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 15-to-4 in those games.

Broncos head coach John Fox is 4-2 against Oakland.

In addition, the Broncos are in on additional ATS (against the spread) win streaks 5-1 after a straight-up win, 4-1 after posting a spread-cover, 5-2 in September and 6-1 overall.

On the flipside, while the Raiders have failed to cover 8 of their last 10 on Monday nights, they’re in on ATS win streaks of 4-0 against AFC foes, 7-3 in September, 13-6 in intradivision play, and 4-1 overall.

The Raiders are 11-2 when McFadden rushes for 100-plus yards.

Raiders head coach Dennis Allen is 0-2 against the Broncos.

In this series, the road team has cashed out 8 of the last 10 meetings, while the Raiders have grabbed the cash 6 of 7 times they’ve been in Denver.

ON DECK: Both teams will be at home in Week 4, next Sunday.

The Broncos are currently a 10-point favorite at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, while there is no line in Oakland’s home affair with the Washington Redskins.