ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Often the best laid plans in the NFL are shoved off the drawing board and stomped into pieces by the kind of defenders whom Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph calls "guys who wreck games."
And on Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, a game may well be decided by one of the league's two best "wreckers" -- Broncos linebacker Von Miller or Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack.
"Pass-rushers, edge players are just a fact of life in our league right now," Joseph said. "Across the league, especially in our division, in this game, it's just the way it is, with some of these edge players. You better have a plan to deal with those players."
Miller, the Broncos' first pick of the 2011 draft, has 76.5 career sacks. Mack has 32 sacks since he was the Raiders' first-round pick in 2014. Mack, who edged Miller by one vote last season for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, was one of the players who attended Miller's pass-rush summit this offseason.
Perhaps it's the familiarity between these AFC West opponents, but the Raiders have limited Miller's ability to get to their quarterbacks better than most. And while Mack has seven sacks in six games against the Broncos, five came in the Raiders' 2015 win in Denver. Of note: The two games the Raiders have won against the Broncos since Mack arrived are the two in which he also had a sack.
Other than the five-sack demolition, Mack had two sacks in the Raiders' 30-20 victory last season. Be it coincidence, injuries or Peyton Manning's presence, the Broncos have won all four games in which they held Mack without a sack.
"In our division, that's what it's going to be like every week," Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian said. "[Mack] is All-Pro; what was he, Defensive Player of the Year? So he's a great player and he's going to show up at some point in the game. Guys like that make a difference, we just have to make sure we keep him under control."
Mack is more of a power-based player in how he sheds opposing offensive linemen. Miller is more explosive, a player who can make the instant change from speed to power or vice versa.
"It's pretty self-explanatory," Mack said. "Von's got a hell of a get-off, and he can bend that corner like nobody else in the league. ... I'm more of a physical guy in that approach -- not taking that away from him -- but that's what I utilize the most, in most cases."
Each presents a unique challenge for blockers, given Mack has routinely powered through double-teams and Miller consistently unwraps a variety of moves to find his way to opposing passers. Depending on which side Mack lines up on, he will face either Broncos rookie left tackle Garett Bolles or his former Raiders teammate, Menelik Watson.
Opposing defenses have forced the issue at times against Bolles and Watson. Three pass-rushers have already had at least 1.5 sacks in a game against the Broncos -- the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Lawrence (two), and the Los Angeles Chargers' Joey Bosa (1.5) and Melvin Ingram (1.5). Joseph said while the Broncos' tackles will get help at times, there will be plays in which each has to go it alone.
"They've competed well against the speed-rushers," Joseph said. "That's a huge issue in this league, blocking speed-rushers, and obviously Mack is a special player. We have a game plan to block Mack -- it won't be on just those guys to block him one-on-one all the time. But again, you can't help both guys, from time to time they're going to have to do their job and block him one-on-one."
Added Bolles: "This game changes every single day. Like I said, one day you're going to have a Khalil Mack and one day you're going to have a Bosa. One day you're going to have Ingram. ... You have a new task every single week. You have a speed guy, you have a power guy or you have a guy that's overall just an athlete."
Mack and Miller, who each discussed the possibility in the preseason of a pass-rusher cracking the 30-sack barrier, have discovered the amount of attention they have received to this point would make that improbable. Because week to week, series to series and down to down, defending against them is always the priority.
"I'll just say, you know where he is every time you break the huddle," Siemian said of Mack. "You're not going to miss him and he's not going to sneak up on you. If [No.] 52 is on the right side or he's on the left side, you know where he's going to be. He'll get a lot of attention."