The much-improved and potent Oakland Raiders (6-2) offense clashes with the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos and their league-leading defense for AFC West supremacy Sunday night at Oakland Coliseum. Each victorious in their last two games, both Denver and Oakland can take sole possession of the division and have the inside track on the AFC’s playoff race.
The Raiders are now one victory away from equaling their win total from last season following Week 8’s 30-24 overtime thriller at Tampa Bay. Quarterback Derek Carr fired off a new team-record 513 passing yards for four touchdowns, including the game-winning 41-yard strike to receiver Seth Roberts.
Oakland’s defense, struggling and ranked near the bottom of the league in points and yards allowed, also turned out one of its better performances by holding the Bucs’ vaunted passing game to only 168 yards and forcing them to punt on their last three possessions, including overtime.
Carr, gaining momentum in the MVP discussion, will take on his toughest test of the season. The Broncos secondary has carried the team with stars like defensive backs like Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib.
However, while Harris, safeties Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward all returned to practice Thursday, Talib will be sidelined due to a back injury.
The Broncos are tied for the league-lead in sacks and takeaways, and will be facing a Raiders offensive line has in No. 1 in sacks allowed (9.0) but perhaps dealing with healthy issues. Starting center Rodney Hudson, along with tackles Donald Penn and Kelechi Osemele, returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s session. Tackle Menelik Watson has been limited for both sessions so far this week.
The Raiders defense, though, did receive a boost from the return of leading veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who was originally believed to be “very questionable” for the matchup with Denver. Smith came back to practice Thursday despite a shoulder injury keeping him out of all but two plays against the Bucs.
Cornerback T.J. Carrie was originally projected to fill Smith’s spot in the starting lineup, but if Smith does play he gives Oakland far more depth to challenge Broncos receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
The duo has combined for 86 receptions, 1,102 yards, and seven touchdowns, helping quarterback Trevor Siemian settle the offense after the retirement of Peyton Manning and the departure of Ronnie Hillman to the Minnesota Vikings.
Rookie Devontae Booker has been limited in practice all week with a shoulder injury, but head coach Gary Kubiak said after Week 8 that he is “day-to-day.” Booker’s tallied 298 yards and two touchdowns at 4.3 yards per carry.
Game Time: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Betting Odds: Oakland -1 via Bovada.lv
Over/Under: 44 points
Prediction: Oakland over Denver, 23-20