By Sam McPherson
The Oakland Raiders only have a few players listed on their official injury report for the final game of the 2013 season, as the Silver and Black wrap up yet another postseason-free campaign.
But for their opponent in Sunday’s finale at O.co Coliseum, it’s a totally different story – the Denver Broncos will be aiming for the Super Bowl, and their injury list is a lot longer — and more complicated.
Oakland really just has one major injury concern for Week 17: starting cornerback Mike Jenkins, listed as questionable after being limited in practice all week. Obviously, that’s a particularly bad position to have injury or depth concerns with when a defense faces the top passing offense in the league and perhaps the best quarterback in history as well.
Slowing down Peyton Manning and his stable of receivers will be the Raiders’ top priority on Sunday, so if Jenkins can’t go at full speed, Chimdi Chekwa will get the start. He’s made 16 tackles this year in 14 games, with one fumble recovery in 2013.
The only other mild concern for Oakland is backup left tackle Menelik Watson, who hasn’t practiced all week and is listed as questionable. So after an injury-filled season that saw Oakland lose their starting quarterback and running back and wide receiver from Week 1 at various points throughout the long 2013 season, the Raiders are healthy on offense finally.
The Broncos have the enviable task of managing a lot of injuries while trying to win to secure home-field advantage for the playoffs and also stay healthy enough for a deep postseason run to the Super Bowl — and they have a few more injury concerns than the Raiders do:
- Denver will be without wide receiver Wes Welker and linebacker Von Miller, two stars on its talented roster. Welker is out with a concussion still, and Miller tore his ACL last week;
- Three Broncos backup tight ends are listed as injured: Joel Dreesen, Jacob Tamme and Virgil Green. All are expected to play, however;
- Three backup offensive lineman are on the official injury report: tackle Winston Justice, guard Chris Kuper and center Steve Vallos. The latter has not participated in practice, however, while Justice and Kuper have been full participants;
- Wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas showed up on the official injury list this week, but both participated fully in workouts and will be ready to go, especially with Welker already out;
- Finally, kick returner Trindon Holliday is probable for the game after participating in practices.
The Broncos have no defensive concerns, other than compensating for the loss of Miller. Three different linebackers are expected to fill his roles, in situational circumstances. Nate Irving has made 38 tackles this year, but he’s mostly just a run-stopping body. Backup defensive end Robert Ayers will take the spot on blitzing downs, perhaps, as he has 5.5 sacks this season. Newly-signed Jeremy Mincey might also see some action, after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Expect Denver to be cautious in this game, to protect starters and key players from injury that could harm the team’s chances at winning the Super Bowl.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on Examiner.com.