OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Playing in high-profile games is old hat for the Denver Broncos after two trips to the Super Bowl the past three seasons and plenty of other opportunities to play on the NFL’s biggest stages.
It’s a new experience for the Oakland Raiders, who have spent more than a decade at the bottom of the standings and far from the limelight of hyped primetime games.
For the first time since 2006, the Raiders (6-2) have an opportunity to play on the NFL’s premier Sunday night stage when they host the Broncos (6-2) on Sunday night in an AFC West showdown.
“I think what we recognize as an organization is as you become relevant, as you play good football, you’re going to have more of these opportunities,” coach Jack Del Rio said.
“This is the natural progression in building a good football team. We should expect to be in these games. We’re going to expect to win these games. Then we’re going to move forward and have more of these kinds of games.”
The game offers an intriguing matchup with Derek Carr and Oakland’s high-powered offense that is coming off a record-setting performance in last week’s 30-24 overtime win at Tampa Bay facing Von Miller and the league’s most dominant defense.
Adding more juice to the matchup is the fact that these teams are longtime rivals with a history of playing in big games.
“We’ve never liked the Raiders,” safety T.J. Ward said. “It’s always come in the same way, regardless of what their record is. It’s just a dislike we have for them. And that’s not going to change.”
Here are some other things to watch this week:
LUXURY CARR: In his third season as a pro, Carr has made significant strides and is now considered one of the top quarterbacks in the league . Carr threw for a franchise-record 513 yards last week and joined Y.A. Tittle and Ben Roethlisberger as the only players to throw for at least 500 yards and four touchdowns in a game without an interception.
“It’s still kind of surreal and I don’t think it will be real to me until I’m done playing and I can kind of look back,” Carr said of the accolades.
TURN IT OVER: The Broncos are tied for the NFL lead with 16 takeaways this season, leading to a league-high 80 points on the ensuing drives. Denver has won 27 straight games when winning the turnover battle, including last year in Oakland when Chris Harris’ 74-yard interception return in the fourth quarter turned a possible go-ahead drive for the Raiders into a win for the Broncos.
MACK ATTACK: Raiders edge rusher Khalil Mack had his best game ever the previous time he faced the Broncos. Mack had five sacks that game, including one in the end zone against Brock Osweiler that led to a safety in Oakland’s 15-12 win . Osweiler is no longer in Denver and the Broncos have two new tackles in Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson. Mack is hitting his stride of late with four sacks the past three games after recording just one the first five weeks.
“The guy’s a monster,” teammate Bruce Irvin said. “He wreaks havoc every week and he has to be accounted for. It’s that time of year where he’s about to get it rolling. It’s really exciting to see.”
COOP AND CRAB: The Raiders have one of the league’s most dynamic receiving duos in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Cooper is third in the league with 52 catches and 787 yards receiving, while Crabtree is tied for the league lead with six TD catches and ranks fifth with 47 catches. The Broncos counter with the league’s top secondary , led by cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby.
“I feel like they have two good receivers. I don’t feel they have two elite receivers,” Ward said. “So, we have two elite corners. We have three elite corners, and that’s their job. So, I think we’ll be all right.”
CLEAN IT UP: The Raiders are coming off a record-setting performance they’d like to forget. Oakland committed an NFL record 23 penalties last week in Tampa Bay for 200 yards. The Raiders are on pace for 172 penalties this season, which would break the record of 163 the franchise set in 2011.
“We’re not going to dwell on it,” Del Rio said. “We’re not going to spend any more time than is necessary to make the corrections, and then we move on.”