Rivals Clash in Oakland

Facing the Oakland Raiders might be what the Denver Broncos need to bounce back from one of their toughest losses of the season.

The Broncos look for a fifth straight victory at Oakland and sixth consecutive overall against the Raiders when the AFC West rivals meet Sunday.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Denver –3.5 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Sunday’s game, the over/under has been set at 42.5 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Denver –3.5 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

Denver (5-6) failed in its chance to remain tied with San Diego for first place in the division last week, blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and losing 37-34 in overtime at Chicago. The defeat dropped the Broncos one game behind the first-place Chargers and two back of Cleveland for the final wild-card spot.

"It's always disappointing. Any time you feel like you have a game won and you give it back it sticks with you for a lot of years,'' said Denver coach Mike Shanahan, whose team allowed the Bears' Devin Hester to return a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in the third quarter. "It's one of those types of games where if you don't take advantage of an opportunity and you can't close it out it's disappointing.

"But we'll work through it.''

What might help is that four of Denver's final five opponents are currently under .500. The Chargers are the only team left on the Broncos schedule that has a winning record and the two will meet in San Diego on Christmas Eve, possibly for the division title.

First up is Sunday's game at Oakland, where Denver hasn't lost since Dec. 22, 2002. The Broncos fell 25-24 on Nov. 28, 2004 for their most recent defeat to the Raiders.

Denver beat Oakland 23-20 in overtime Sept. 16 on Jason Elam's 23-yard field goal with 5:38 left in the extra period.

That win was a controversial one for the Broncos, as Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski made a 52-yard field goal with 11:13 left in overtime for the apparent win, only to have it not count after officials ruled Shanahan called timeout just before the snap. Janikowski missed on his retry.

Denver, which had won two in a row prior to facing Chicago, hopes things won't be so dramatic this week. The Broncos are looking to regroup after blowing the biggest fourth-quarter lead in a loss in team history since squandering a 15-point advantage and falling 45-38 at Buffalo on Oct. 28, 1962.

Last week's collapse overshadowed a solid performance by Jay Cutler, who was 17-for-31 for 302 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Though the Broncos have lost three of their last five games, Cutler has thrown six touchdowns and two interceptions during that span.

He was 23-for-33 for 269 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions against the Raiders in September.

While the Broncos hope to be able to count on another strong effort from Cutler, they are unsure who he will be handing the ball off to Sunday. Andre Hall had a breakout performance last week in replacing injured backs Travis Henry and Selvin Young, rushing for 98 yards and a touchdown, but he suffered a high ankle sprain and could miss this contest.

Fullbacks Cecil Sapp and Mike Bell could see more time if Hall can't play.

"Let's wait and see what happens,'' said Shanahan, whose team has averaged 148.3 rushing yards in its last three contests.

Receiver Javon Walker could see more time after playing sparingly and not making a catch against Bears in his return after missing seven games with a knee injury.

"I wouldn't say he's perfectly healthy,'' Shanahan said of Walker, who caught eight passes for 101 yards versus Oakland in the last meeting. "I think he'll be a lot more ready this week."

Oakland (3-8) is coming off a 20-17 win at Kansas City on Sunday that snapped a 17-game losing streak to AFC West opponents. The Raiders ended an overall six-game skid.

"It just feels good, especially to get a division win, especially on the road,'' Oakland safety Stuart Schweigert said. "We have another division opponent this week. It definitely builds momentum."

Justin Fargas rushed for 139 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, while an efficient Daunte Culpepper was 15-for-22 for 170 yards for the Raiders, who topped their season average of 18.2 points for a second straight game.

Fargas rushed eight times for 13 yards in a backup role against the Broncos in September, but is averaging 96.0 yards in his last four contests since taking over the starting job.

Culpepper, who did not play in Oakland's last matchup with Denver, will make his third straight start Sunday, though there remains a chance that No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell could make his debut.

The Raiders are 1-4 at home and look to avoid their fourth consecutive loss there since a 26-24 win over Cleveland on Sept. 23.

By: Staff Writers - Email Us

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