By Ryan Leong
The last time the Oakland Raiders faced the Denver Broncos, both teams had 1-2 records. Now, Denver is playoff bound, while Oakland is desperate for a win to end a five-game losing streak.
The Broncos under Peyton Manning have won seven in a row to improve to 9-4 and are 2012 AFC West Champions clinching their second straight division title. Last year they backed into the playoffs when the Raiders lost to the Chargers at home in the regular season finale. Had the Raiders won, they would’ve hosted the Steelers instead of the Broncos. Although the Broncos won that playoff game with some Tim Tebow magic in overtime, they were obliterated by the New England Patriots in the second round as Tom Brady threw six touchdowns in the win.
Denver is much happier this season having won the division crown outright. But the players know this is just the first step towards the Lombardi trophy which is the ultimate goal.
“We didn’t like the feeling of having to come in and wait for a phone call to get the news, so in order for us to come out and take care of business at our house, that was more important,” Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil said. “But at the end of the day, last year we won the title and didn’t do much with it.”
As Thursday night’s game approaches, the Broncos know that with a win over the hapless Raiders they’ll keep pace with both the Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. Their next opponent in Week 15 would be Baltimore. If they beat the Ravens, that will put them in a position for a possible first round bye if the Patriots stumble along the way. A loss, and it could mean a three-way fight for the Wild Card having to duke it out with Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and possibly resurgent Indianapolis.
The Raiders had a few things go their way this past Sunday. They managed to limit Cleveland to 20 points but their defense still allowed 475 total net yards against a Browns team that offensively ranks 27th in the league. By comparison, the Broncos are 5th in total offense out of 32 teams and Manning has three receivers he can target: Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas, and Brandon Stokley.
Manning also put himself in the franchise record books tossing his 27th, 28th, and 29th touchdown passes on Sunday, passing the single season mark of 27 previously held by John Elway (1998) and Jake Plummer (2004).
Denver has scored 30 or more points six times during its seven game win streak. The Broncos’ current streak is their longest since they won 13 straight to start the 1998 season. That team would go on to win Super Bowl XXXIII.
It’s the eighth time in his Hall of Fame career that Manning has won seven in a row.
Meanwhile, the Raiders are 3-9 and near the bottom of the standings in the division, just ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs who are coming off that emotional win after the murder/suicide of Jovan Belcher.
With the lack of intensity by many of the Raiders players in the past month, this game could turn out to be a monumental blowout. Although Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer continues to post solid offensive numbers, the Raiders have been stuck on three wins since beating the Chiefs back on October 28.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.