In Week Three of the NFL, there is already a game with playoff implications.
The reason being is that the San Diego Chargers lost to the Baltimore Ravens, and depending on what the Chargers do next Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, there could be three teams in the AFC West with 2-1 records after next Sunday.
In a Division that could go down to the wire, as it did in 2008, every Divisional game has playoff implications and cannot be taken lightly.
Right now, the Raiders and Chargers have lost at home, but won on the road. The Broncos barely won at Cincinnati on an anomalous play, while the Broncos had the benefit of pulverizing a Cleveland team that is likely bound for the top five in the NFL draft.
The Broncos have not lost a home opener since 1999, and that wasn't going to change against the Browns (sorry, Cleveland).
In 2007 and 2008, the Raiders have defeated the Broncos twice in Denver, while the Broncos have defeated the Raiders twice in Oakland.
One win by Denver was the blowout on opening week in 2008, while the other came from "The Iced Kicker Game" in which Oakland missed a game winning field goal.
In the two wins by the Raiders over the Broncos, the Raiders have won by comfortable margins. The first was the first NFL appearance of JaMarcus Russell in 2007, while the second performance in 2008 was Russell's best performance to date.
If the Raiders desire to send a message to the sports world, that the Raiders are back and can contend for the AFC West, they must defeat the Broncos in Oakland.
Kyle Orton might not be a flashy quarterback, but under coach Josh McDaniels, Orton knows how to distribute the ball, which could be trouble for an Oakland defense that plays man-to-man.
The Broncos have four wide receivers to account for: Brandon Marshall, Brandon Stokley, Eddie Royal, and Jabbar Gaffney. The Broncos also have tight ends Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler. On top of that, the Broncos also use the running backs in the receiving game, Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, and rookie Knowshon Moreno.
Thus, the best way to stop Orton is to knock him down, or get in his face as the Bengals did a week ago. The same was true about Tom Brady in the 2008 Super Bowl. System quarterbacks tend to have trouble against a frequent and fierce pass rush.
If the Denver offensive line under Josh McDaniels, is anything like the New England offensive line was under Josh McDaniels, then I hope that Richard Seymour can know what to exploit.
The Browns didn't provide much evidence of where Denver's weaknesses lie, but Cincinnati did, even though they lost on an anomalous play.
As for the Raider offense, the Raiders must establish the running game against a team that has struggled against the run in 2007 and 2008, and is not much different in terms of personnel.
Cedric Benson had a respectable day against Denver, mostly off of the left side of the line, but did vary his runs left and right. The Raiders should challenge the middle of the Denver front seven (duh).
That however, doesn't mean that the Raiders' defense should attempt to wing-it against the Broncos. Study hard, exploit their weaknesses.
Establishing the running game will detract coverage from the Raiders' receivers.
I remain patient with JaMarcus Russell, but the Raiders cannot expect to continuously win on the final drives.
It seemed like Russell had the "Yips" today, which is a term I just learned from the USA show Psych. The "Yips" referred to New York Yankees' infielder Chuck Knoblauch and his sudden inability to throw accurately.
I'm left to wonder if that performance by Russell was a mental block. It seems like Russell can focus when there's a sense of urgency, but struggles when there isn't.