The Oakland Raiders open their 2011 campaign in Mile High against the Denver Broncos. This is the first of two scheduled matchups between the AFC West foes. The Raiders went undefeated in the division last season and are looking to repeat that incredible accomplishment once again.
In recent years, these two teams have been rather irrelevant, but they have a history of bad blood stemming back to their AFL days.
The Raiders dominated the Broncos last season in their first meeting, winning 59-14 in a ridiculously one-sided battle.
Darren McFadden went off for 165 yards and 3 TDs on the ground and grabbed another one out of the air. Jason Campbell, appearing in his first Raiders/Broncos game, went 12 of 20 for 204 yards and 2 TDs. The Raiders’ defense also performed admirably and helped to absolute crush the life out of Denver in the game. The Raiders set a record for most points scored in the franchises’ illustrious history.
The Raiders won their second meeting of the year with Denver 39-23 behind more excellent performances by McFadden and Campbell.
This season’s match up could be much different as there are a number of new pieces on each team. Keep reading on to find out some of the key points to the game.
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO.
When: Monday, Sept. 12, 10:15 P.M. EST.
Watch: ESPN (Nationally Televised).
Listen: Sirius XM: 113, 94, 88. Local Radio: Live 105, KOA 850 AM.
Betting Line: Oakland +3. The Broncos are giving three points for home field advantage. This is a pick ‘em and I would go with Oakland.
What’s at Stake?
Pride. Neither team is going to challenge the Chargers for the AFC West title this season. The Raiders won’t be able to win six division games again and will most likely relapse from their 8-8 season after having some turnover at the top.
The Broncos had an awful season last year and still employ Kyle Orton, the QB that lead them to a 3-10 record before being replaced by Tim Tebow. They are still in a rebuilding stage, so getting revenge on a team that beat them up last year would be a good morale boost.
Raiders’ Injury Report
TE Kevin Boss (knee)—Boss is doubtful to play this game with an MCL sprain. After losing Zach Miller this offseason, Boss was expected to replace his production, but they will have to wait a week or two to see if he can fill Miller's shoes.
CB Chris Johnson (unknown)—Johnson underwent an unknown surgery a few weeks ago but may be back in the starting line up this game. They need him back to add depth to a position direly thin with the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha.
Broncos’ Injury Report
D.J. Williams (elbow)—Williams will miss this game with a dislocated elbow. He was the Broncos leader in sacks and tackles last season. This is not good news for a team that struggled against the run last year.
Ty Warren (tricep)—Warren got a big contract from the Broncos after the Patriots cut him loose this offseason. Unfortunately, he is going to miss 3-4 months with a torn right tricep. This is going to hurt their defensive line play.
Fantasy Start ‘Em
Darren McFadden. Run DMC tore the Broncos up last season for some of his biggest games and this year he will be able to do the same. The Broncos’ run defense is god awful and McFadden will prove he is a top back against them to start the season.
Fantasy Sit ‘Em
Darrius Heyward-Bey. If you took a chance on DHB, sit him this week because Champ Bailey will crush him. The Raiders ruled out Louis Murphy for Week 1, so the Raiders’ receiving corps is even more thin than usual.
Eddie Royal. The Raiders lost Nnamdi Asomugha and have some terrible cornerbacks in his place. Royal can put up catches in bunches if given the chance and might have a great day against this weak secondary.
What They’re Saying
Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post points out that John Fox is the first defensive-minded coach the Broncos have hired since Wade Phillips in 1993-1994. Fox is indicating that he won’t get involved in the coordinator’s business.
“You do what's needed to win, and I hire coordinators I think are qualified, and I want to give them the responsibility and the freedom to do their jobs," Fox said. "You've got to give them responsibility and the power to do the job. As a head coach, you manage the game, and I think that's harder to do if you are the offensive or defensive coordinator.”
That’s good news for fans of Mike McCoy (offensive coordinator) and Dennis Allen (defensive coordinator).
Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle questions some of Al Davis’ ownership decisions and weighs the pros and cons. He notes that head coach Hue Jackson has a solid but seemingly tenuous relationship with the team’s owner. “"He is someone that I can communicate with, bounce things off and talk to, talk through things with,” Jackson mentioned. “As I said before, this is his team, I respect that. But, boy, do we really have some great conversations about where we need to go and what we need to do to get better."
Seems a little weird.
Raiders Player to Watch
Jason Campbell. The team needs to have some solid QB play to support one of the best rushing attacks in the entire league. If Campbell can produce with these sub-par receivers, he may just be the answer in Oakland for the next few years.
Broncos Player to Watch
Knowshon Moreno. After former head coach Josh McDaniels criticized his work ethic and locker room presence, Moreno may be on thin ice with John Fox as well. It will be interesting to see how the team divvy’s up the snaps the first week.
Broncos’ vertical-passing game vs. Raiders’ secondary. The Raiders are going to be playing their first game since 2003 without Nnamdi Asomugha and will have to worry about the other teams top WR for once. Can Kyle Orton, Brandon Lloyd and Co. capitalize on this?
On the Hot Seat
Hue Jackson. Tom Cable got fired after an 8-8 season in Oakland and you never know what the heck Al Davis is thinking anymore at this point. If Jackson opens the season with some losses, he could potentially be replaced. Even in his first year. That’s Al for you.
Raiders over Broncos, 30-14.