NFL Preview - Denver (6-2) at Oakland (0-8)
By Chris Ruddick, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The last thing that the winless Oakland Raiders needed was a visit from a Denver Broncos team needing to bounce back from their worst loss of the year.
But that's what they'll get on Sunday when the Raiders take another crack at their first victory of the season against a Broncos team looking to reestablish themselves as one of the premiere teams in league, as the AFC West foes square off at O.co Coliseum.
Not much went right for Denver in Week 9, as it suffered its worst regular season loss of the Peyton Manning-era against New England in a 43-21 setback. Manning admitted after the game that he stunk, despite throwing for 438 yards.
Manning did throw two touchdowns, but completed a season-worst 59.6 percent of his attempts (34-of-57) and also tossed a pair of interceptions. He had thrown just three picks in his first seven games.
"Well, I don't usually stink, but I stunk today," Manning said.
The 22-point loss matched the margin of defeat for the Broncos' previous four losses combined, none of which exceeded seven points. Still, it was only the second loss in eight games for Denver, which holds a one-game edge over the Kansas City Chiefs for first place in the division.
The setback, though, may have exposed the Broncos' struggles on the road. They are just 1-2 away from home this season with their only win on the road coming against the hapless New York Jets.
Five of the Broncos' next seven games will be away from Denver.
"We've got to be better on the road," said Manning. "And we probably didn't play our best out there in New York, so we've got to play better on the road."
Oakland, meanwhile, represented itself well in a 30-24 loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks in Week 9, but still the Raiders fell to 0-8 on the season and lost for the 14th straight week dating back to last season for the 16th time in 17 tries overall.
They may have fell behind 24-3 to the Seahawks, but have entered the fourth quarter either tied or within one score in each of their last four games.
"We came here to win a football game. We didn't come here to come close," said Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano. "The bottom line is, if you turn the ball over three times in the first half and you're playing catch-up against a good team like this on the road in their environment, it makes it really hard to (win)."
Derek Carr passed for 194 yards and threw two interceptions that led to 10 Seattle points in the first half.
Denver has won its last five against the Raiders by an average of 18.8 points.
"I really don't look at their record," Manning said. "I look at what I see on film. There are a lot of new players compared to last year. They had a midseason coaching change which sometimes allows for different things so I think you really have to try to get to know them this year and so it's not as familiar as an opponent as maybe some teams because of the changes they made."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
It's not much of a stretch to suggest that Denver is going to move the ball against this Raiders team that is in the midst of their worst slide since a 19-game drought between 1961-62..
The Broncos come into the contest with the fifth- best offense in the league (407.6 ypg), while amassing the second best passing attack at 313.5 ypg.
Manning may have been off his game last week, but he has still thrown at least two touchdown passes in an NFL-record consecutive 14 games and has thrown for at least one score in 47 consecutive contests, tying Johnny Unitas for the third-longest such streak in league history.
Demaryius Thomas continues to be his favorite target and has topped 100 receiving yards in each of his last five games and leads the NFL with an average of 111.8 receiving yards per game.
Denver may have been atrocious against New England in Week 9, as Jack Del Rio's group allowed the most passing yards (332) and total yards (398) since Week 1. Standout linebacker Von Miller was particularly disappointing and managed just one tackle and saw his streak of six straight games with a sack come to an end.
Miller (9 sacks) defensive end DeMarcus Ware (8 sacks) represent just the eighth pair of teammates since 1982 to post at least eight sacks apiece through a season�s first eight games.
As susceptible as the Broncos may have looked to the pass against New England, the defense ranks first in the league in run defense having allowed opponents to rush for just 71.6 yards per game.
That number should get even better this week against an Oakland team that is ranked last in rushing at 65.5 yards per game, a mark that would be the league's lowest since 1946.
"I think they've attempted to run the ball even though they have less rush attempts than most people," head coach John Fox said. "I think the young quarterback (Carr), they've committed to (him), and he's improving every week. He can make all the throws. He's good on his feet as well as with his arm."
Darren McFadden, who finished with 20 yards on 13 carries in the loss to the Seahawks, totaled 15 on 19 attempts against Denver in 2013. However, he has 816 scrimmage yards (692 rush, 124 rec.) and 9 total TDs (6 rush, 2 rec., 1 passing), including three 100-yard rushing games in his last 10 versus the Broncos.
Given how bad the Raiders have been on the ground, Carr has had to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility on offense, as he has had to attempt 290 passes. He has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 1,711 yards and 11 touchdowns with seven interceptions.
He needs 28 yards and two TDs to surpass Tom Flores' club rookie records.
"Guys in that locker room believe 100 percent in Derek without question, Sparano said.
Carr isn't the only neophyte succeeding in Oakland. Rookie linebacker Khalil Mack has racked up 23 quarterback pressures over the past four games.
"This business is about wins," Sparano said. "You're seeing a lot of young players that are going to be the core of this football team for a long time that are really getting involved and contributing an awful lot."
Oakland, though, has allowed 29.2 points over its last five games. Not exactly a great situation considering Denver ranks third in the league with 30.6 points per game.
Chances are the Raiders aren't going to suffer through an 0-16 season. But, they won't be getting that win this week. It would have been real tough to beat this Broncos team under normal circumstances, but trying to hang a second straight loss on them might be too tall a task for this young Raiders team. Expect a big bounce back day from Manning and for the Broncos to roll easily.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Broncos 38, Raiders 17
11/09 11:00:37 ET