AFC West division matchups are always important. Early on in 2017, the Raiders travel to grapple with the Denver Broncos. It’s a game with added importance in a tight three-way race for supremacy in the AFC’s best division.
The Oakland Raiders put on a dismal display of football last week in a 27-10 loss on the road against the Washington Redskins. Fortunately, their opponent this week, the Denver Broncos, were almost as bad.
The Broncos lost at Buffalo, 26-16, in a game where the Broncos were outscored 13-3 in the second half. For a team built around a vaunted defense, that probably shouldn’t happen, even on the road.
Still, both teams come in at 2-1, a game behind undefeated Kansas City. Added to the importance of bouncing back, it’s also the first division game for the Raiders.
“We know division games are important,” coach Jack Del Rio said during his weekly press conference. “They are some days when maybe statistical references are appropriate and then other days when it’s just about getting your mind right and getting ready to go compete.”
Competing isn’t exactly what the Raiders did against the Redskins. The Washington offense basically had its way with Oakland defense and the offense couldn’t get anything going. The 17-point differential doesn’t begin to illustrate how uncharacteristic the loss was for the Raiders in Washington.
And despite the Broncos struggles in Buffalo, the Oakland offense will be facing its toughest test to date in Denver. Quarterback David Carr will have to be at his best and Amari Cooper will have to start actually catching passes for the Raiders to be successful.
“They’re really good,” Del Rio said. “They’re gifted. Aqib [Talib] and Chris [Harris Jr.], [Bradley] Roby has really come on. I think those three guys are as good as any three in the league. Very talented. A good pass rush in front of them and they’re real sticky. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Cooper (knee) and Michael Crabtree (chest) have been limited in practice. On the other hand, Roby (knee) and Talib (not injury related) missed practice on Wednesday as well.
The Raiders defense faces a Denver offense that has weapons in Demaryius Thomas and C.J. Anderson. Second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian is also progressing as a young starter far better than anyone anticipated. Through three weeks, Siemian is tied for fourth in the league with six touchdown passes. Despite a small step back in the Buffalo loss, Del Rio says the young player is showing great growth.
“He’s a young quarterback that’s just gaining confidence,” Del Rio said. “You can see the confidence he’s gaining with each snap he takes. I think he’s doing a nice job with their offense and directing it and making decisions and leading their team.”
Add the home-field advantage in the mile-high city as a major factor, and the Raiders have their work cut out for them.
The game opened as a pick-em, but the Broncos have since been bet up to 3-point favorite. The over-under total is 46. Game time is 1:25 p.m PDT.