By Marc Mandell

@mandell_w Twitter

360Sports Review

Is this the biggest game that the Raiders have had in decade? I believe the answer to that question is yes. Irrelevancy and hopelessness have been the names of the game for our AFC West siblings since 2002. This year however Oakland appears to be turning things around. Now, it’s worth mentioning that they haven’t played a top rated team aside from Atlanta, and they haven’t played Denver’s burly defense yet either. The Broncos and the Raiders are exact opposites this season so it should lend itself to a terrific fight for a few reasons. So here’s a fresh take on the Sunday Night Football match up for this week. Let’s hope that, unlike most of the prime-time games so far this season, this will be entertaining and enjoyable to watch. Yeah, looking right at you Jags and Titans.

On Sunday, the Denver Broncos will travel to the black hole for their third game in the AFC West. To add to the excitement, it’s for the lead in the division as both teams are locked at 6-2. Meanwhile, Raider fans are riding the same high that Charlie Sheen felt while on set of Two and a Half Men. I do think that it is a bit of a spurious feeling though. Oakland’s last two wins have come against the mighty Jaguars, 2-5, and invincible Tampa Bay Bucs, 3-4. The latter W took a record setting 500+ yard 4 TD performance from Derek Carr, and they only won by 6 points! The win against the Jags took just 200 yards passing and a couple of TD’s via the running back. It wasn’t that Oakland beat the Jaguars, more that the Jaguars beat themselves.

Now before all you Raidah fans stand up and start yelling at me while pointing your finger at the screen, hold on. I do think that Derek Carr is one of the two best QB’s in the division. And no, Trevor Siemian isn’t one of them. Plus the Cooper/Crabtree combo is a killer duo. Not to mention the vast improvement of the offensive line for Oakland. The offense is good, and will be for the next decade. The Raiders are, and I can’t believe I am about to type this, 5th in the league in offense. Again the team has come against some…..less than desirable defenses, but 5th is still 5th. They can run with efficiency and pass at will. Offensively they are set and good to go. However, Denver’s defense has numbers behind them that Oakland fans should be a little nervous about.

Holding the last 11 QB’s Denver has faced to under 200 yards passing, aside from just 3 outliers, is just one example. Even without Aqib Talib and Brandon Marshall last week against the Chargers, they still yielded 3 interceptions. Only the running back Melvin Gordon had a good game against Denver. I will say that the run stuffing from the Denver D has been more like run cranberry sauce. Viscous and slippery. Not as stifling as last season to be sure. The pass defense however is still stout and stingy. This week though, the Broncos will have all the usual suspects back out there. Demarcus Ware played last week and looked fresh. With Talib and Marshall back on the field this week as well, this will be the first time since week 2 that the defense will be back together, playing as one. Oh yeah, and Von Miller. Sleep tight Oakland.

Now for the weakness of the two teams. For Denver it’s the offense. I don’t think anyone in Broncos country is shocked to know the news that Denver’s offense is at the very least, inconsistent. Just as the running game got going, CJ went down with a meniscus injury and will miss some time. The passing game is feast or famine, and it takes three and half quarters to even get off the ground. The offensive line struggles, and you can bet Kalil Mack is licking his chops at the opportunity to face off against Michael Scofield again. We all remember that game last year right? When Schofield was made to look like a puppy in a lions den. Yeah, that was a tough one to watch. The bonus here though guys, is that the defense that Denver will be up against on Sunday night will be about the same as the Houston Texans. Soft and squishy.

Oakland’s defense has been very, not good this year. I know I could have phrased that better, but I feel that particular phrase is a good metaphor of the defensive prowess that the Raiders have displayed this season. Ranked between 29th and 31st in the league in nearly every category certainly leaves something to be desired. But only by Raider fans, let’s be honest. This should provide an excellent opportunity for Davonte Booker and Kapri Bibbs to get some real yards and see pay dirt a few times, and as we all know, with the Kubiak system, if the running game works, so does the passing. Who doesn’t love the long ball? Allowing 410 yards a game isn’t the best way to display a defense. The Raiders are an opportunistic defense though. They have 7 picks on the year and 6 fumble recoveries, but opportunistic defenses and disciplined ones are often very different. It’s the latter that wins games, and championships. But remember, all those turnovers have come against guys like Blake Bortles and Jamis Winston. No Cam Newton or Andy Dalton, or even Andrew Luck for that matter.

The Raiders have had an easier schedule, have a weaker defense and are only 1-2 at home this year. They are playing in a stadium that needs a tarp to cover the entire upper deck because no one in the Bay area cares about this team. The offense hasn’t seen a team like Denver this year, and Oakland’s defense is as stout as a light beer. I know this game is in Oakland, and I know it’s on Sunday Night Football, when every team wants to show their very best, but at the end of the game, it won’t be the Raiders that are victorious. It will be Denver. 28-17 in favor of our beloved Broncos. And Denver will advance to 7-2.

Thank you so much for reading! GO BRONCOS!!!!!!