Denver, CO. Although both the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders have identical 1-2 records through three weeks of the 2012 regular season, each team has gotten to this point in entirely different ways. The Broncos have battled through a brutal September schedule, and even though they have dropped two of their first three, they have scored the exact amount of total points that their opponents have, which is 77. Denver has lost two straight tough games after making furious comebacks late in each game, only to come up a bit short. The Broncos have shown that their overall talent level is quite a bit better than in recent memory, as they have plenty of reasons for optimism going forward. On the other side of things, Oakland shocked the Steelers this past weekend to notch their first victory, after two awful performances against San Diego and Miami. The Raiders have scored just 61 points for the year, while giving up 88. They obviously realized that going to an 0-3 record would have been a death sentence, and their season would have been over before the calendar even hit October. So now in week 4, all things point to the Denver Broncos bouncing back, defeating the overmatched Raiders, and reaffirming that this Denver team is back on track. But before anyone gets ahead of themselves, overlooking Oakland would prove to be a critical blow to a season that still has a ton of promise.
Although this Broncos-Raiders rivalry doesn’t have quite the intensity that it did back in the 80′s and 90′s, it still gets the fans of both teams juiced and ready to roll. The days of these teams getting in skirmishes after every other play may be a thing of the past to a certain extent, but because it’s still a divisional game and the two teams face each other twice a year, it will always be a big one on the schedule. Before any Broncos fans pencil in an automatic win for Denver this Sunday, let me point out a few things about this rivalry, and specifically the games that have been played in Denver. During the last ten years, while the Raiders for the most part have been pretty dreadful, they still have managed to win 6 out the past 10 meetings with the Broncos in Denver. This also includes Oakland victories over Denver in each of the last four years in the Mile High City. Anyone remember the 59-14 Raiders victory two years ago? I do. That was one of the all-time lows for this Broncos franchise. The bottom line is, as awful as Oakland has been for some time now, they seem to play well in Colorado and have shown the ability to win in decisive fashion.
This game this week is absolutely critical for the Broncos to win. With San Diego getting drubbed by Atlanta this past Sunday, the division-leading Chargers are at 2-1 and just a game ahead. Because the early season schedule is so difficult for the Broncos, they cannot afford to lose to Oakland. A win over a team they should defeat would get this team back to .500 and would give them some much-needed momentum heading into matchups with the Patriots, Chargers, and Saints in October. A loss versus a bad Raiders team at home could potentially send Denver into a major tailspin, and one that they may not recover from. However they get it done, whether it’s a 30 point blowout, or a last second, come from behind thriller, the Broncos absolutely, without a doubt, must be 2-2 after this Sunday. If the Broncos are 1-3 come Monday morning, the rest of 2012 will be just a formality, and plans for any sort of playoff run in January would be a pipe dream.
Denver Sports by J Simp