OAKLAND, Calif. – As trying as the first half of Derek Carr's first NFL season has been with no wins, rookie mistakes and the challenge of adjusting to the pro game, he can take some comfort when he looks across the field Sunday.
Because as rough as these first eight games have been for Carr, Peyton Manning had it almost as bad when he made his debut 16 years ago.
Instead of being discouraged by a 3-13 season and 28 interceptions, Manning learned from it and became the Super Bowl winning and record-setting quarterback that he is today.
"Experience was my best teacher," Manning said. "There's no question that I learned a lot of things that I would not have learned if I wasn't in there playing. Learn from the good things and of course you've got to learn from the mistakes as well. But, I do think that being in there facing the live action is really the only way to learn how to play quarterback in this league."
Carr will get another chance at it on Sunday when he looks for his first win when the Raiders (0-8) host Manning and the Denver Broncos (6-2).
Carr's first eight games have slightly better than the start to Manning's career despite the lack of team success. He completed a higher rate of passes (60.7 percent to 55.1), threw the same number of TD passes (11), has less than half of Manning's interceptions (7 vs. 16) and has a superior passer rating (79.8 to 64.5).
The edge for Manning is that he won one of his first eight starts instead of going winless. But Carr feels he has made progress and it's only time until the wins come.
"A lot of people learn in different ways, but for me I need to be out there and I need to see it," Carr said. "For me, it's been great. I'm looking forward to getting some wins going on, going into the last half of the season."
Carr, obviously, has a long way to go to reach Manning's level. Manning has won a record five MVP awards, played in three Super Bowls, won one title, and has a record 515 TD passes.
"I'm glad that I don't play defense, because I don't think I'd help us much if I did," Carr said. "But, it's cool. It's one of those things that early in the week, you're like, 'Wow, that's pretty cool.' But at this point, I'm trying to beat him."
Here are some other things to watch when the Raiders host the Broncos:
CLASS OF '98: This game features two of the three remaining players from the 1998 draft in Manning and Raiders safety Charles Woodson. Manning was taken first overall by Indianapolis that year, while Woodson went fourth to Oakland after beating out Manning for the Heisman Trophy. Sixteen years later, the two are still near the top of their games.
"He looks the same as when he got out of college," Manning said.
LEERY OF LETDOWN: One week after losing a showdown at New England, the Broncos could be forgiven if they let their guard down a bit against the winless Raiders.
"I don't look at the record, I look at the film," Manning said. "I look at how we're playing. Your job each week is to study the opponent and also be sure you're studying yourselves and seeing what you need to be doing to improve."
MACK ATTACK: When the Raiders drafted Khalil Mack fifth overall in May, then-coach Dennis Allen compared him to Denver linebacker Von Miller. Mack has mostly lived up to the expectations, playing dominant run defense and providing consistent pressure on the quarterback. The one thing lacking is sacks. Mack is still looking for his first, while Miller had 6 1/2 after eight games.
"I know a lot has been made that he hasn't had a sack, but I think he might lead the league in holding penalties versus him," Denver coach John Fox said. "He's tremendous and a guy that we're very aware of."
SACK EXCHANGE: Miller and DeMarcus Ware form one of the most feared pass-rushing duos in the NFL. Miller is tied for second in the NFL with nine sacks and Ware is just one behind with eight. They are the eighth set of teammates to each have at least eight sacks in the first eight games and will present quite a challenge to Carr and his offensive line.
GROUNDED: In a season of lows, the Raiders running game is setting some marks for futility. Oakland's 18.9 rush attempts per game are the lowest on record going back to 1932 and the team's average of 65.5 yards rushing per game is the lowest in the NFL since Detroit averaged 42.5 yards in 1946. This week, the Raiders will have to contend with the NFL's stingiest run defense, allowing just 71.6 yards per game.
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