Posted December 05, 2012 on
AP on Fox
Just a year ago, Denver and Oakland went to the end of the season in the race for the AFC West title, with the Broncos edging the Raiders for first place on the final day by winning a three-team tiebreaker with San Diego.
Now the teams couldn't be further apart.
The Broncos (9-3) are riding a seven-game winning streak into Thursday night's game in Oakland having already wrapped up the division title. They are spending the last month worried about playoff positioning and staying healthy for the postseason.
The Raiders (3-9) have lost five straight and have been eliminated from playoff contention for a 10th straight season as the franchise has regressed in the first year of the new regime led by general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen.
''It's definitely disappointing. Coming into the season, we had a new GM, had a new coaching staff and it felt like the sky was the limit, but for some reason - obviously, we had a lot of injuries - but for some reason, we haven't been on the same page the whole season,'' defensive back Michael Huff said. ''The defense has had their struggles, the offense has their struggles at times, special teams had their struggles at time. It's like we haven't just put that complete game together yet. We're just trying to figure it out and find that perfect game.''
The Broncos figured it out quickly after going 8-8 last year in their first season under front office boss John Elway and coach John Fox. The biggest change came when they acquired quarterback Peyton Manning to replace pedestrian passer Tim Tebow.
But nearly 20 other players acquired since Elway took over the football operations have started games this season, including standout defensive star Von Miller, who has 26 1/2 sacks in less than two seasons.
''It's been a lot of hard work by a lot of people whether it's personnel department, the coaching staff, the players in the locker room,'' Fox said. ''As far as the offseason I know a lot was made of Peyton Manning but we had a lot of other guys that have been big contributors to this football team as well. But, you know, anything worth a darn takes time to build and so we just in year two of that process.''
The acquisition accelerated it. He has come back from a neck injury that sidelined him all last season to set a Denver record with 29 touchdown passes.
The addition of a dangerous passing game to complement a strong defense led by pass rushers Miller and Elvis Dumervil and a solid running game have made the Broncos legitimate contenders in the AFC.
They clinched the division last week and are tied with New England and Baltimore for second place in the conference and a first-round playoff bye.
''I think our team realizes what a unique opportunity we have and we are trying to take advantage of it,'' Manning said. ''Those are the kind of guys you want to be around.''
It might be natural for the Broncos to overlook the struggling Raiders team that hasn't led a game at any point the past four weeks, especially with a potentially key playoff positioning game the following week in Baltimore.
But with big-play running back Darren McFadden expected to return and the intensity of a division rivalry, Fox has preached all week to his players to avoid that trap.
''You can't look at their record; you've got to look at their film,'' safety Rahim Moore said. ''They have big-time playmakers. They have speed all over the field, a great running back in Darren McFadden. ... Even though this is a team that's shuffling on paper, that doesn't mean they can't make plays. Just because we've been winning doesn't mean they're going to give us a victory. They're going to come play us hard. It's the NFL. Don't ever take anybody lightly in anything you do.''
The Raiders will be playing the game with heavy hearts. Allen, the defensive coordinator in Denver last season, has been away from the team all week because the death of his father, Grady.
The players have talked about rallying behind their coach this week. They are searching for any kind of motivation after all their real goals disappeared during the five-game losing streak.
''You just play for pride,'' Huff said. ''We don't want to go out there and get embarrassed Thursday night. Our family, friends, high school coaches, little league coaches, everybody will be watching us. If you don't want to not get embarrassed you shouldn't be playing this game.''
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colo., contributed to this report
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
BEST OF MAXIM
(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images)
On Sunday, the 6-foot, 4-inch tall, 291-pound Mitch Unrein proved that he can do more than merely play on the defensive line.
In the second quarter, Unrein lined up at fullback in Denver’s goal line formation and caught a one-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Peyton Manning.
Seeing Unrein in the backfield was not surprising,...
Big Pete of the comments has a guest piece for your reading pleasure this morning. Thanks Pete for volunteering to do this! Let him know what you think in the comments!
Since earlier in the week seemed to be “Nit-Pick Day”, here is a list of the things I nit-pick the Broncos about.
#1. We seem to always play down to our opponent’s level.
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants to help keep the Raiders in Oakland.
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With the San Francisco 49ers building...
The Denver Broncos are fairly healthy for tonight’s contest
against the Oakland Raiders, as several regulars, including wide receiver
Brandon Stokley and defensive lineman Robert Ayers are questionable and
probable to play. The only player doubtful on the team’s injury report is
linebacker Wesley Woodyard.
Woodyard sustained a sprained ankle during last weekend’s
RETURN OF CHUCKY
Rumor has it that NFL analyst Jon Gruden and the Raiders have been in talks to bring the team's onetime head coach back into the fold in Oakland.
For those who live outside of Colorado and do not have DirecTV, we present this handy-dandy broadcast map, courtesy of the506.com:
Those of you who live in the red areas will receive the Broncos/Raiders game on NFL Network this weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:20 p.m (MT) and we’ll have complete coverage of the game here on the blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter. See you at kickoff!
Hub Arkush of ProFootballWeekly.com informed Dan Bernstein that the Oakland Raiders ”are in talks” with Jon Gruden to return as their head coach.
This is definitely a surprise, but it’s hard to say whether or not this is an actual possibility. Gruden’s name has been tossed out as a potential option for almost every available coaching job in the country.
GM Reggie McKenzie...
Running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are returning to the field for the Oakland Raiders after missing the previous four games with sprained right ankles.
Both McFadden and Goodson are active for Thursday night's game against Denver for the first since getting hurt Nov. 4 against Tampa Bay. The Raiders also will dress three players who had concussions Sunday: safeties...
Raiders running back Darren McFadden was a full participate in practice Wednesday and is listed as probable for Thursday night’s game against the Broncos, per Jerry McDonald.
McFadden officially listed as probable and participated fully in practice. He’s playing.
— Jerry McDonald (@Jerrymcd) December 5, 2012
McFadden has been out since Week 9 and with backup Marcel Reece battling...
Week 13 has come and gone, and a couple more cadavers were dropped off at the mortuary.The Chiefs were merely a prelude to the slew of departed souls who would be making their way onto my concrete slabs.They've been inevitably tagged and bagged; now it's merely time to examine what caused these wretched souls to fulfill the destiny that their mortal coil demands.Subject:...
The Oakland Raiders signed FB/RB Jamize Olawale from the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad, the team announced Tuesday. Olawale is the second player the Raiders have signed from another team’s practice squad this season, following DB Brandian Ross, who was added from Green Bay Sept. 19. Olawale spent training camp with the Cowboys.
I gotta be honest, Raider Nation. I’m running out of things to talk about, report, and analyze in the AFC West. It’s pretty simple, really. The Denver Broncos are good. The Chargers, Chiefs, and Raiders are not. The Broncos clinched the division title this past weekend and now set their sights on a 2 or 3 seed in the playoffs. The [...]