Oakland has played well against its own division, a fact the Denver Broncos are very aware of after the Raiders scored a franchise-record 59 points against them earlier this season.
The Raiders look to improve to 5-0 against the AFC West when they host the Broncos on Sunday.
Oakland (6-7) hasn’t had at least six wins in a season since 2002, when it last won the division and reached the Super Bowl. The Raiders, however, aren’t content with just finishing with a winning record – they are hoping to make the playoffs.
However, their chances seem slim after losing three of four to drop behind Kansas City and San Diego.
It’s especially frustrating since Oakland is unbeaten against its division, including a 59-14 win in Denver on Oct. 24. The Raiders could finish the season perfect against the AFC West and still miss the playoffs. Since the 1970 merger, no team has finished undefeated against its division and not ended up in first place.
"The reality of it is we have to win out and we need a little help here," coach Tom Cable said, "but if that’s the way it’s supposed to turn out it will and we’ll find a way to get it done."
Oakland’s playoff hopes took a big hit after losing 38-31 at Jacksonville last Sunday. The Raiders blew a 10-point lead and gave up several big-yardage plays, including a 74-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter and a 30-yard rushing TD in the fourth.
The Raiders rank 14th in the NFL in overall defense, giving up 335.3 yards per game, but they’re 29th in allowing 61 plays of 20 or more yards.
"Too many big plays defensively," Cable said. "You’ve got to finish the deal."
The breakdowns on defense against the Jaguars marred an exceptional day by the offense. Jason Campbell went 21 of 30 for 324 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 127.6 – the second-best of his career – while Darren McFadden had 209 yards of total offense, recording a 67-yard receiving touchdown and rushing scores of 51 and 36 yards.
McFadden became the first Raider to score on a run and catch of at least 50 yards in the same game since Clem Daniels in 1963. He recorded four touchdowns and 196 yards of offense against the Broncos in October.
Oakland may also not have to be so concerned with giving up big plays to Denver (3-10), which has lost four straight and scored less than 15 points in three of those games. The Broncos fell 43-13 at Arizona last Sunday in interim coach Eric Studesville’s first game.
Denver began the week firing Josh McDaniels and without him calling plays, the offense suffered. The Broncos rushed for 132 yards but had six turnovers, including three interceptions by Kyle Orton.
Orton completed 46.3 percent of his passes for 166 yards and no touchdowns to finish with a 27.1 quarterback rating, the third-worst of his career.
Orton has gone 28 of 69 for 283 yards and no touchdowns in the last two games, but Studesville said he remain the starter over first-round draft pick Tim Tebow.
"I don’t think this is where we’re at this particular second," Studesville said.
Orton, who has also been sacked a career-high 34 times, had a difficult time against Oakland in October, completing 41.4 percent of his passes for 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while getting sacked four times.
"That guy gets the blunt of the blame, and that’s what the position is," Studesville said. "There are a whole lot of other things that go into that. We have to protect him up front … we have to run routes that get open … it’s 100 percent a team effort – to put it solely on him, I don’t think is 100 percent right."
The Broncos have won their last two visits to Oakland, outscoring the Raiders 64-17. They are looking to avoid getting swept in the season series for the first time since 2002.