Raiders return home to host Broncos in key AFC West matchup

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
S.R.S Contributor

OAKLAND — The Raiders return to the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum for their first true home game in more than a month when they host their bitter AFC West rival, the Denver Broncos, Sunday at 1:25 pm PT. This is the second matchup between the two teams, as the Broncos defeated the Raiders 16-10 in the Mile High City on Oct. 1.

Oakland (4-6) came off their bye week and looked liked a team that was still resting, losing to the reigning Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots 33-8 in Mexico City last Sunday. It was the second straight season that the Raiders hosted a “home” game at Estadio Azteca, resulting in a different outcome.

Starting quarterback Derek Carr threw for 237 yards on 28-of-49 passing with one touchdown and one interception in the loss. Wide receiver Amari Cooper’s 9-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter was Oakland’s lone score of the game. Fellow wide receiver Michael Crabtree led Oakland with six receptions for 51 yards, while running back Marshawn Lynch led the team with 11 carries for 67 rushing yards.

As a whole, the Raiders gained 344 yards of total offense and controlled the ball for 32 minutes of the game, but committed eight penalties for 66 yards to go along with two turnovers.

But the true story was the play of the 26th ranked Oakland defense, which surrendered 421 yards of total offense to the Patriots.

Tom Brady, the future Hall of Famer, dissected Oakland by completing 30-of-37 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns. At one point, Brady completed his first 13 passes of the game. Wide receiver Bradin Cooks had the biggest performance for the Patriots, leading the team with six receptions for 149 yards and a 64-yard touchdown.

The defense, which has not recorded an interception through 10 games this seasons (an NFL record per the Elias Sports Bureau), looked lost and confused against New England Sunday. For the season, the Raiders have allowed 3,670 yards of total offense through Week 11, 27th in the league against the pass.

And with that, Oakland decided to fire defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. on Tuesday. John Pagano, who joined the Raiders in the offseason as assistant head coach/defense, will take over defensive playcalling duties starting with Sunday’s game against the Broncos. Before joining the Raiders, Pagano spent the previous five seasons as the defensive coordinator of the Chargers.

Pagano’s Chargers were tied for the NFL lead last season with 18 interceptions.

Norton joined Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio’s first staff in 2015, serving as the team’s defensive coordinator ever since after four seasons as linebackers coach for the Seattle Seahawks.

Although you never want to see anyone lose their job, the firing of Norton was to be expected. Oakland is tied with the New York Giants for 32nd in the league with just 14 sacks this season.

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year in defensive end Khalil Mack leads Oakland with 5.5 sacks this season.

The Broncos (3-7) are also a team in flux, losers of their last six games.

Similar to Oakland, Denver made changes with their playcalling, firing offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and elevating quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave to the position. Musgrave served as Oakland’s offensive coordinator from 2015-16 helping Oakland rank sixth in total offense last season.

Musgrave began his coaching career with Oakland in 1997 serving as the team’s quarterbacks coach under then head coach Joe Bugel.

The Broncos also made a switch at quarterback, benching Brock Osweiler and are going with Paxton Lynch against Oakland Sunday. This will be Lynch’s second start since replacing an injured Trevor Siemian last Dec. 4 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The sixth-year Osweiler completed 62-of-117 passes for 701 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions in his three starts since taking over for Siemian.

After losing a training camp battle for the starting quarterback position with Siemian, Lynch missed two months with a shoulder injury he suffered in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on Aug. 26.

Lynch is the Broncos’ third starting quarterback this season and will take over an offense that are tied for the second-fewest in the NFL with 17 touchdowns total.

With the Chiefs sputtering a bit at 6-4 after starting the season 5-0, the Raiders could salvage their hopes at the division title if they can keep pace of Kansas City. Oakland already has a win over the Chiefs, a 31-30 nail-biter at home on Oct. 19, but sit behind the Chargers (4-6) in the division.

The Chargers defeated the Raiders 17-16 on Oct. 1.

Kansas City host the Buffalo Bills Sunday. At 5-5, the Bills are are on the outside of the AFC playoff race, but the tiebreaker over Oakland, having beaten the Raiders 34-14, on Oct. 29 in Orchard Park.

For Oakland, there is no more room for error. Sunday’s game against the Broncos is a true “must win” game for the Silver and Black.


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