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Scouting the enemy: Oakland Raiders

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The Denver Broncos square off against their most bitter rival — the Oakland Raiders this Sunday in a pivotal AFC West battle.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

There are dozens of historic rivalries in the National Football League, but there is no question that the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders is one of the greatest in all of football. The two franchises have battled one another since 1960 and in that time period, have faced off in 115 total games. That’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that have poured into the gridiron over the course of nearly six decades. The Raiders lead the overall head-to-head series 62-51-2, but the tide has been turning in the Broncos' favor since 2011 — where they have won nine of the last twelve meetings.

To me, this is a playoff game in early October. After a disheartening loss to the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, the Broncos are looking to rebound against the Raiders in order to keep pace in the ultra-competitive AFC West. That being said, don’t be surprised to see Oakland coming out with a bit more fire than usual, after suffering an embarrassing defeat to the Washington Redskins last week. It’s not just another week of football for Denver — it’s Raiders week. All teams want to win every game, but when it comes to rivalries, those games mean a bit more and carry something greater than just bragging rights.

Here are a few match ups to look forward to and my prediction on how the game will play out on Sunday.

Key Match Ups to Watch

Derek Carr vs. The No Fly Zone

Credit should be given where credit is due — Derek Carr is a fantastic young quarterback who has been one of the major sparks that has ignited a recently woeful Raiders squad into a strong competitor. In just over three years of play, Carr has developed into a franchise quarterback who consistently makes big plays. He is a great decision maker who has 2.5 times more touchdowns than interceptions for his career and has a cannon for an arm which makes him capable of making any throw.

While Carr usually has no problem shredding opposing defenses through the air, he has struggled against the Broncos. In five career games against the Broncos, Carr has been on the losing side in three of them. His completion percentage of 58 percent is three points less than what he usually registers, while his 73.5 passer rating when going up against the Broncos' No Fly Zone is thirteen points less than his career average. If the Raiders are going to beat the Broncos on Sunday, Carr and his offensive weapons are going to have to put up a great performance against the Broncos’ vaunted defense, who is known for stopping an aerial assault before it even takes off.

Khalil Mack vs. Menelik Watson

We are only four weeks into the regular season, but the ineptitude of Watson has been covered time and time again on Mile High Report. I wouldn’t expect us to stop doling the criticism any time soon, as this week is another tough draw for the former Seminole and Raider who will have to go up against last year’s Defensive MVP in Khalil Mack.

It’s hard to hate on a blue-chip player like Mack, whose dynamic abilities rival that of Von Miller — but there are some fans who can and never will forget the way he curb stomped Michael Schofield for five sacks in 2015. Can’t say I blame them! This is literally a nightmare match up, but all Broncos Country can do is collectively hope and pray that the Broncos will have some help for Watson on the right side and that Garret Bolles will be able to handle Mack when he flips over to his side on occasion.

Hart’s Prediction

Both the Broncos and Raiders are coming off disappointing week three losses to teams they should have beat, which will undoubtedly make each team hungrier for a win on Sunday. The winner will ascend to 3-1 and hope to keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs for the lead in the AFC West, while the loser will fall to 2-2 and potentially sink their dreams of being this year’s division champion. Make no mistake about it — the Broncos need to treat Sunday’s gridiron affair like it is a playoff game.

The Broncos’ defense needs to get after Carr early and often and continue to play disciplined in the trenches to ensure that Marshawn Lynch doesn’t run wild at Mile High. Additionally, Denver’s offense has to stop shooting itself in the foot with poor penalties and turnovers. Trevor Siemian must rebound after a disastrous performance on the road in Buffalo, but should have a great opportunity to do so given the Raiders’ pass defense is ranked twenty-fourth in the league. It’s an awful unit that is giving up 252 yards a game with opposing quarterbacks completing an eye-popping 69.5 percent of their passes on them.

I expect the Broncos to play a much better game than they did against the Bills and have a successful outing against the Raiders on Sunday. With a solid rushing attack wearing down the Raiders’ front seven and Siemian hitting some big time throws to his receivers, the Broncos will earn their third victory of the season and keep their hopes of another AFC West title and playoff birth alive.

Broncos 30, Oakland 20.

Poll

Who is going to win on Sunday?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    The Denver Broncos.
    (559 votes)
  • 17%
    The Oakland Raiders.
    (121 votes)
  • 2%
    It’s going to end up a tie ball game, fellas!
    (15 votes)
695 votes total Vote Now