DENVER – Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor has seen the scores. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have put up 40-plus points in their first two games and made offense look easy.
As Pryor heads into his fourth NFL start when the Raiders play at Denver on Monday night, Pryor knows the temptation will be to put more on his shoulders, to try to match the Broncos score for score all by himself — to try to out-Peyton Peyton.
In his short time in the league, Pryor has already figured out that's no way to approach this game.
"When you do that, you'll come up short because Peyton is a great quarterback," the third-year veteran said. "It reminds me of Tiger Woods, when his competitors were kind of going against him and they kind of folded because they pressed. I've got to stay away from doing that."
If the Raiders (1-1) are going to have any chance, it figures to come on the strength of their league-leading rushing offense (198.5 yards per game) and a defense that finished Week 2 tied for the NFL lead in sacks with nine.
Pryor, who won the starting job over offseason pickup Matt Flynn, had 162 yards rushing in the first two games — most among quarterbacks in a league featuring Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick and RG3 — though he insists running is only a last option.
"I know if I have pressure and guys get in, that's when I think about running," said Pryor, a third-round selection in the 2011 supplemental draft, who goes down in history as the last pick made by Al Davis. "I'm not going to take hits, but if I have a pocket that's open and I know that I can set there and go through all my progressions, I'm going to do it. But if I can't, of course, I'm going to use my God-given ability."
Manning's God-given ability, of course, is throwing the football. Last week, he joined Brett Favre and Dan Marino as only the third NFL quarterbacks to surpass the 60,000-yard mark for his career.
The Broncos headed into Week 3 with 90 points, 24 more than second-ranked Green Bay. They have started 30 drives, 11 resulting in touchdowns and two more producing field goals. Manning has opened the season with nine touchdowns and no interceptions, — the first quarterback to do that.
These performances have come against Baltimore and the New York Giants, the last two teams to win the Super Bowl.
At times, Denver has made it look ridiculously easy. Manning assures it is not.
"It is work out there," he said. "We have prepared hard for these last two weeks."
This will be the 106th episode of an AFC West rivalry that dates back to 1960, the beginning of the AFL. As the years have passed, the rivalry has taken on less meaning to the players, beyond the fact that it's a divisional game.
Is it easier preparing for a team you know better?
"For the record, nothing about this is easy," coach John Fox said. "It's all hard. You've got a lot of competitive people out there. It's our most important game of the year because it's a division game."
Scouting the Raiders will not be as easy as pulling up last year's game tape. Pryor started only the last game of 2012. The defense, which allowed 63 points to the Broncos last year, has been completely revamped, with nine new starters to open the season. A 10th, Brandian Ross, will start at strong safety Monday in place of injured Tyvon Branch.
Other new faces include veteran safety Charles Woodson, who picked Oakland over Denver during free agency last offseason, and cornerback Tracy Porter, who had a bad season in Denver, then signed with the Raiders.
Their task: Slow down a Denver offense that has looked unstoppable, which, in turn, would make things more manageable for Pryor and running back Darren McFadden, who leads the league with 223 yards from scrimmage.
"I hope we don't have to score 40 points and that we'll be able to play some good defense," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "But we'll have to adjust however the game plays out. Obviously, we're going to have to score some points to win because this is a high-powered offense and they're probably executing as good as I've seen any offense execute."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org