The Broncos’ stock is rising


The Broncos’ stock is rising

The Raiders’ – with their new coach and GM – is dropping
Eric Decker and the Denver Broncos fly into Oakland for an AFC West rivalry game with the Oakland Raiders, but this intradivision rivalry game isn’t what it once was. “You can’t look at their record; you’ve got to look at their film,” safety Rahim Moore said.


Just a year ago, Denver and Oakland went to the end of the season in the race for the AFC West title, with the Broncos edging the Raiders for first place on the final day by winning a three-team tiebreaker with San Diego.

Now the teams couldn’t be further apart.

The Broncos (9-3) are riding a seven-game winning streak into tonight’s game in Oakland already having wrapped up the division title. They are spending the last month worried about playoff positioning and staying healthy for the postseason.

The Raiders (3-9) have lost five in a row and have been eliminated from playoff contention for a 10th consecutive season as the franchise has regressed in the first year of the new regime led by general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen.

“It’s definitely disappointing. Coming into the season, we had a new GM, had a new coaching staff, and it felt like the sky was the limit, but for some reason – obviously, we had a lot of injuries – but for some reason, we haven’t been on the same page the whole season,” defensive back Michael Huff said. “The defense has had their struggles; the offense has their struggles at times; special teams had their struggles at time. It’s like we haven’t just put that complete game together yet. We’re just trying to figure it out and find that perfect game.”

The Broncos quickly figured it out after going 8-8 last year in their first season under front office boss John Elway and coach John Fox. The biggest change came when they acquired quarterback Peyton Manning to replace pedestrian passer Tim Tebow.

But nearly 20 other players acquired since Elway took over the football operations have started games this season, including standout defensive star Von Miller, who has 26½ sacks in less than two seasons.

“It’s been a lot of hard work by a lot of people, whether it’s personnel department, the coaching staff, the players in the locker room,” Fox said. “As far as the offseason I know a lot was made of Peyton Manning, but we had a lot of other guys that have been big contributors to this football team as well. But, you know, anything worth a darn takes time to build, and so we’re just in year two of that process.”

Manning’s acquisition accelerated that process. He has come back from a neck injury that sidelined him all of last season to set a Denver record with 29 touchdown passes.

The addition of a dangerous passing game to complement a strong defense led by pass rushers Miller and Elvis Dumervil and a solid running game have made the Broncos legitimate contenders in the AFC.

They clinched the division last week and are tied with New England and Baltimore for second place in the conference and a first-round playoff bye.

“I think our team realizes what a unique opportunity we have, and we are trying to take advantage of it,” Manning said. “Those are the kind of guys you want to be around.”

It might be natural for the Broncos to overlook a struggling Raiders team that hasn’t led a game at any point the last four weeks, especially with a potentially key playoff positioning game the next week in Baltimore.

But with big-play running back Darren McFadden expected to return and the intensity of a division rivalry, Fox has preached all week to his players to avoid that trap.

“You can’t look at their record; you’ve got to look at their film,” safety Rahim Moore said. “They have big-time playmakers. They have speed all over the field, a great running back in Darren McFadden. ... Even though this is a team that’s shuffling on paper, that doesn’t mean they can’t make plays. Just because we’ve been winning doesn’t mean they’re going to give us a victory. They’re going to come play us hard. It’s the NFL. Don’t ever take anybody lightly in anything you do.”

The Raiders will be playing the game with heavy hearts. Allen, the defensive coordinator in Denver last season, has been away from the team all week because of the death of his father, Grady.

The players are rallying behind Allen. They’re searching for any kind of motivation after all their goals disappeared during the five-game losing streak.

“You just play for pride,” Huff said. “We don’t want to go out there and get embarrassed (tonight). Our family, friends, high school coaches, little league coaches, everybody will be watching us. If you don’t want to not get embarrassed, you shouldn’t be playing this game.”

AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Englewood contributed to this report.

Denver Broncos (9-3) at Oakland Raiders (3-9)

Time: 6:20 p.m. today, NFL Network, KRSJ 100.5 FM

Opening Line: Broncos by 10

Record vs. Spread: Denver 7-5; Oakland 3-9

Series Record: Raiders lead 60-44-2

AP Pro32 Ranking: Broncos No. 4; Raiders No. 31

Last Meeting: Broncos beat Raiders 37-6, Sept. 30

Last Week: Broncos beat Buccaneers 31-23; Raiders lost to Browns 20-17

Broncos Offense: Overall (5), rush (22), pass (7)

Broncos Defense: Overall (3), rush (7), pass (6)

Raiders Offense: Overall (13), rush (29), pass (8)

Raiders Defense: Overall (28), rush (28), pass (25)

Streaks, Statistics & Notes

Denver has won the last two meetings after losing the previous four.

Broncos’ seven-game winning streak is the longest in regular season for franchise since a 14-gamer in 1997-98 with John Elway at quarterback.

John Fox is the third coach since the merger to take over a team with a losing record and win divisions his first two years.

Broncos are tied with the Raiders for the most AFC West titles since the merger with 12.

Denver has outscored its opponents by 77 points in the fourth quarter.

Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas is tied for the NFL lead with 17 catches of at least 25 yards.

Denver LB Von Miller has 15 sacks, two shy of Elvis Dumervil’s team record set in 2009.

Raiders have lost five in a row for the first time since 2007 and have not led at any point in a game since early in the third quarter Nov. 4.

Oakland has allowed 59 plays of at least 20 yards, third worst in the NFL.

Raiders TE Brandon Myers tied the franchise record with 14 catches last week, and his 69 receptions are the most for a Raiders TE since Todd Christensen had 95 in 1986.

Oakland K Sebastian Janikowski kicked his 40th field goal of at least 50 yards last week, tied for third most all-time.

Raiders RB Darren McFadden could return this week from a sprained right ankle. McFadden has rushed for at least 100 yards in three of his last four games against the Broncos. Marcel Reece has been spelling McFadden.

Associated Press

Broncos’ Injury Report

NEW YORK – The NFL injury report, as provided by the league (OUT - Definitely will not play; DNP - Did not practice; LIMITED - Limited participation in practice; FULL - Full participation in practice):

DENVER BRONCOS at OAKLAND RAIDERS – BRONCOS – DOUBTFUL: LB Wesley Woodyard (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: WR Brandon Stokley (hip). PROBABLE: DE Robert Ayers (not injury related), TE Virgil Green (hamstring), G Chris Kuper (ankle), G Manny Ramirez (back), WR Matthew Willis (knee). RAIDERS – OUT: DT Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: CB Phillip Adams (concussion), DE Jack Crawford (toe). PROBABLE: T Khalif Barnes (triceps), S Tyvon Branch (neck), WR Juron Criner (shoulder), S Matt Giordano (concussion), RB Mike Goodson (ankle), RB Taiwan Jones (ankle), RB Darren McFadden (ankle), S Mike Mitchell (concussion), TE Brandon Myers (shoulder), QB Carson Palmer (right thumb), RB Marcel Reece (hamstring, quadriceps).

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The Broncos’ stock is rising

Eric Decker and the Denver Broncos fly into Oakland for an AFC West rivalry game with the Oakland Raiders, but this intradivision rivalry game isn’t what it once was. “You can’t look at their record; you’ve got to look at their film,” safety Rahim Moore said.
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