Historically, the Raiders lead this series 59-43-2. But if Week 4’s 37-6 home victory by the Broncos is any indication of how this rivalry will shake out over the next few seasons, Denver could begin to close that gap in a hurry.
The Broncos have locked up the AFC West crown just 12 games into the season. While the division as a whole is down—with the Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs combining for only nine wins themselves—Denver should still feel good about where it stands and could use a relatively easy close to the season to jockey for position within the AFC.
Carson Palmer is quietly having a strong season for the Raiders. His 3,532 passing yards and 20 touchdowns passes are both good for top-10 totals in the league.
How much of that success can be attributed to Oakland playing catch-up for most of the season is debatable, however.
The Raiders defense is largely to blame for the team's disappointing season. Allowing 387 total yards and a league-worst 31.3 points per game is hardly a recipe for success and could spell disaster when facing Peyton Manning and Co. in Round 2 on Thursday night.
Here is one bold prediction for each team, along with fantasy football "beast or bust" candidates in Thursday night's matchup.
Knowshon Moreno Has Career Day on the Ground (Fantasy Beast)
Whether due to injury or simply not producing since being taken 12th overall by the Broncos in the 2009 NFL draft, Knowshon Moreno’s career shows no semblance to how most thought it would look now four years in.
Denver brought oft-injured running back Willis McGahee in last season to shoulder the load out of the backfield. Moreno is now getting another shot with McGahee recovering from a torn MCL, though he could be back late in the postseason should the Broncos make a deep run.
Moreno’s 48 touches (24 in each game) for 194 total yards over his past two outings are certainly encouraging. Imagine what those same 24 touches could look like against the league’s 28th-ranked run defense.
The Raiders allow 130.4 rushing yards per game on 4.7 yards per carry, and their 16 rushing touchdowns yielded are tied for second-worst.
With Denver presumably playing most of Thursday night’s game with a lead, Moreno could be in line for a huge game and threaten his career-high of 161 rushing yards—set back in Week 13 of the 2010 season in a 10-6 loss to the Chiefs—In the process.
Brandon Myers Does it Again, Tallying 10 Receptions for 100 Yards and a Score
Raiders tight end Brandon Myers might have been the best-kept secret in the entire league prior to his 14-catch, 130-yard and one-touchdown performance in last week’s 20-17 loss to the Browns. He is quickly becoming Palmer’s safety blanket and favorite target out in Oakland.
Who wins this game?
The Raiders have played behind on the scoreboard a lot this season, as indicated by their 141-point score differential, which is second-worst in the league (Arizona Cardinals). Thursday night’s matchup with the Broncos should be no different.
While Denver could expend extra effort in keeping Myers under wraps, it is a safe bet that Palmer will stop at nothing to get his guy the ball. The Broncos have allowed a league-worst nine touchdowns to tight ends this season, so Myers should be able to find the end zone as well.
Fantasy Bust: Raiders Backfield
Though not short of capable options, the Raiders backfield should not be relied upon as your fantasy football playoffs kick off this week.
Both Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are slated to return on Thursday night, joining Marcel Reece in a now crowded Oakland rushing attack. While all three can be productive collectively, the headache of predicting which one will have the better game lends itself to steering clear of the entire situation.
Furthermore, the Broncos run defense ranks in the top seven in yards allowed, yards per carry and touchdowns. And Denver will more than likely be playing with a lead for much of the game, keeping the ball in Palmer’s hands and out of either McFadden’s, Goodson’s or Reece’s.
With McFadden having missed the last four games, you probably have another option to go with here. If that alternative happened to be Reece, he is probably the better play with his ability to make plays out of the backfield in the passing game.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy.