One of the NFL’s most bitter rivalries takes center stage tonight in primetime. It’s not the most intriguing game on the NFL schedule this week, but when the Broncos and Raiders meet up you can usually throw the records out the window.
Let’s take a closer look:
WHAT’S AT STAKE
The Broncos have already wrapped up the AFC West, but they still have plenty left to play for. Denver is in a three-way tie with New England and Baltimore for the second seed in the AFC, which would give the Broncos a first round bye and at least one home game in the playoffs. Denver will play Baltimore head to head next week, but an early-season loss to the Patriots means they would lose a tie-breaker with New England, so if the Broncos are eying a bye they can’t afford to lose a game the rest of the way.
As for the Raiders, their season is hopeless, but they’re going to need some wins down the stretch or else head coach Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie could be at risk of losing their jobs. Although Oakland appears to have nothing to play for, motivation shouldn’t be a problem for the Raiders in this rivalry, especially after the embarrassing 37-6 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Broncos earlier in the season.
BRONCOS OFFENSE VS. RAIDERS DEFENSE
There’s no doubt that the Broncos have a big advantage in the passing game. If Brandon Weeden can throw for 364 yards against Oakland’s defense with a cast of no-name receivers at his disposal, imagine what Peyton Manning is capable with the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the receiving end of his passes. Manning should be able to throw the ball at will against Raiders, so it might be more important for the Broncos to work on getting their running game going. Knowshon Moreno has been steady but unspectacular the past two weeks, and facing the 28th ranked rushing defense might be a good time for him to gain some confidence and get in a groove heading into their showdown with Baltimore next week, and ultimately the playoffs.
RAIDERS OFFENSE VS. BRONCOS DEFENSE
The return of Darren McFadden should give an Oakland offense that has become one dimensional without him a big boost. However, whether or not McFadden will return fully healthy remains to be seen. Also, McFadden only managed 34 yards on 13 carries in week 4 against the Broncos, so there’s no guarantee he’ll have success against a stout Broncos run defense. More than likely the Raiders will find themselves behind and needing to throw the ball, at which point Carson Palmer will have to worry about the fierce Denver pass rush. The Raiders must find a way to establish a decent running attack, because even if Palmer has time to throw Denver’s secondary isn’t easy to go up against.
On paper, this game has blowout written all over it, but on a Thursday night at home against their bitter rivals the Raiders will come to play. Oakland will make some plays to stay close, but in the second half they will become overwhelmed by Denver’s pass rush while their secondary struggles to slow down Manning and his receivers. The Broncos will win going away: Denver 38, Oakland 17.