By Mark Schiff
The Broncos may be in the midst of an unprecedented 15-game road winning streak against divisional opponents, but when it comes to playing at home against the Raiders, Denver’s history is much more checkered. From 2008-2011, Oakland pulled off a four-game winning streak at Invesco Authority Field at Mile High, including a 59-14 massacre in 2010.
Denver has now won eight-straight against Oakland, but no one who sat through that humiliation will ever take a Raiders game for granted in Denver. Here’s your Week 14 opponent preview.
Raiders Season Record: 5-7
Following their 16-10 loss to the Broncos in Week 5, the Raiders won two straight games to improve to 4-3. But since then, Oakland has dropped three-of-four, knocking them down the ladder in the wild card hunt. Last week’s 34-20 home loss to the Chiefs was their worst of the bunch, as quarterback Derek Carr threw a pick-six and two interceptions that were converted into touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter. Veteran safety Charles Woodson called it “one of the hardest losses I’ve been a part of.”
Raiders on Offense:
Derek Carr may have had a meltdown at the end of the Kansas City game but for the most part, the second-year quarterback has played like a steady veteran. He sits in the top 10 in passing yards ahead of such names as Aaron Rodgers and he’s thrown for 26 touchdowns to go with his 3,178 yards.
920 of those yards belong to rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper, who is doing his part to justify his selection as the fourth overall pick. Cooper is a strong candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year and the team’s third-year running back Latavius Murray has also shown flashes, giving Oakland a strong core of skill players to build around.
Raiders on Defense:
Charles Woodson has been in peak form this season, as Bronco fans no doubt remember from the last Raiders game when he picked off Peyton Manning twice. But outside of Woodson, the Raiders have been struggling on defense, particularly in the pass game, where they’ve given up the fifth-most yards.
Oakland’s run defense is decent, as they’ve given up just five big runs of 20-plus yards. With C.J. Anderson’s ankle injury, Denver could be thin at running back and will likely rely on Brock Osweiler and the passing game to attack the Oakland defense.
Raiders Players to Watch: DE Khalil Mack and WR Michael Crabtree
Defensive end Khalil Mack is starting to come on in his second-season, as the 2014 first-round draft choice got two more sacks on Sunday to bring his season total to nine. The pass rusher has been shining since Aldon Smith was handed his season-ending suspension and Denver will need to account for him if Osweiler continues to get pressured.
Like Smith, wide receiver Michael Crabtree moved across the San Francisco bay to join the Raiders this season, and he’s having one of his best years as a pro with Oakland. He has already hauled in 66 passes, just two short of the 68 balls he caught all of last season, and with seven touchdowns on the season, he’s developed into a solid red zone target for Carr.
After years of squandering their high draft picks on worthless players, the Raiders have at last amassed a talent block of young stars that Broncos fans will grow to hate in the years to come. But this season, Denver’s dominant defense should be more than enough so long as the offense plays with competence, something they didn’t do in the first meeting when they failed to score a touchdown. Like the San Diego win, Denver won’t need more than a couple of touchdowns to hold off a Raiders team already heading in the wrong direction.
Find out of Oakland can pull off the upset when the Raiders kick off against the Broncos at 2:05 pm on Sunday from Sports Authority Field at Mile High, right here on CBS4 Denver.
Mark Schiff is a freelance writer and music journalist for AXS.com. In 2013, his coverage of the Seattle Seahawks ended in heartbreak when they defeated the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Now covering his beloved hometown team, his knowledge and passion for pro football has resulted in multiple fantasy football championships. Find him on Twitter at @mihilites.