Oakland Raiders are off to Denver to open up divisional play against the Broncos this Sunday

Photo credit: Raiders Report (@raiders_fanly)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND — The Raiders travel to Denver to take on fellow AFC West rival, the Broncos, Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High to open divisional play for the Silver and Black.

Both teams are looking to get back into the win column after both losing on the road in Week 3.

Oakland (2-1) was humbled by the Redskins 27-10 in Washington on prime-time in a game that the Redskins held quarterback Derek Carr and the high-power Raiders offense to just 128 yards in 48 plays ran. The offense didn’t hit the 100-yard mark in total offense until the fourth quarter.

Carr had a game to forget, completing just 19-of-31 passes for 118 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions with a 52.9 passer rating. Tight end Jared Cook led all Oakland receivers with 43 yards on four receptions. Cook scored his first touchdown in a Raider uniform on a 21-yard pass from Carr.

Carr was also sacked four times, another rarity for the Silver and Black who only surrendered 16 sacks in 2016.  Oakland’s stout offensive line has already gotten Carr sacked six times this season through three games.

Oakland’s defense was paced by linebacker Cory James, who recorded a team-high 12 tackles and one forced fumble. Defensive end Khalil Mack recorded his second sack of the season while finishing with nine tackles on the night for Oakland, who allowed 472 yards offensively to Washington on Sunday night.

Washington starting quarterback Kirk Cousins torched the Raiders, passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns to zero interceptions. Cousins completed 25-of-30 passes and finished with a blistering 150.7 passer rating against Oakland, who couldn’t keep running back Chris Thompson at bay the entire night.

Thompson hauled in six receptions for 150 yards (74 yards coming on an easy pitch-and-catch

But the lack of production from Oakland’s top receivers was the real eye-popping issue from the game.

Washington’s secondary led by the trash-talking Josh Norman, the Redskins’ top cornerback, were in the faces of Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Washington held the duo in check, limiting Cooper and Crabtree to just two receptions for 13 yards on eight targets.

Crabtree and Cooper will have their work cut out for them again Sunday when they have Denver’s stellar pair of cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr., lined up against them, especially when  Crabtree and Talib line up.

Who can forget when Talib ripped off Crabtree’s gold chain following a play in last year’s season finale, a 24-6 victory for the Broncos at home?

The Crabtree/Talib matchup could be the best one-on-one matchup within the game, and could prove to be the difference maker in a win for either team.

Denver (2-1) is coming off a 26-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Western New York last week. The Broncos defense recorded four sacks and held Buffalo to 272 yards of total offense. Linebacker Brandon Marshall recorded a team-high 10 tackles and one sack.

Outside linebacker Von Miller also posted a sack, but his 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on third-and-six after not helping up Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, which was an absolute joke, proved to be critical in aiding the Bills to victory.

The Broncos’ defense is one of the best in the league, ranking first in rushing yards per game allowed (59.7), fourth in total yards per game allowed (263), 10th in passing yards per game allowed (203.3) and 16th in points per game allowed (21.3) through three games.

Oakland has the ninth-best offense in the league, averaging 27 points per game.

Offensively, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas led Denver with six receptions for 98 yards, but quarterback Trevor Siemian didn’t pass the ball well, completing 24-for-40 passes for 259 yards and like Carr in Washington, threw two interceptions against the Bills.

Siemian finished with a 58.2 passer rating on the day.

With Kansas City sitting on top of the AFC West at 3-0 and both teams needing to keep pace, Sunday’s game is most certainly a must win.

After the embarrassing showing in Washington where many critics started to question the Raiders’ effort on national television, what team will show up in Denver?

The one that resembled a powerhouse team after vanquishing Tennessee and the New York Jets almost with ease?

Or the team that was hung upside down by their ankles in Washington, watching all of their lunch money spill out?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raiders try to wrap up AFC West title in Denver without Derek Carr in regular season finale

Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, left, watches as quarterback Derek Carr, bottom, is tended to by trainers during the second half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — With a playoff spot already in their back pocket, the Raiders have a chance to clinch the AFC West title with a win in Denver (or a Kansas City loss in San Diego) Sunday at 1:25 p.m. to close out the 2016 regular season at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

But the 12-3 Raiders are going to have to go out and win the division (and the AFC’s No. 2 seed) without franchise quarterback and MVP candidate Derek Carr. Carr fractured his right fibula during Oakland’s 33-25 win over the visiting Indianapolis Colts in Week 16 on Christmas Eve.

The third-year quarterback completed 21-of-31 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns before being helped off the field following a sack by Colts defensive end Trent Cole in the third quarter. Carr’s leg got stuck in the Oakland Coliseum turf as Cole spun Carr around, fracturing his right fibula. On the season, Carr passed for 3,933 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just six interceptions.

The loss of Carr is devastating for the Silver and Black as they embark on their first postseason appearance since 2002, but Carr’s backup Matt McGloin is a guy that is ready for the challenge of leading a very talented team.

“I feel great,” McGloin said this week via CBSSports.com. “I know this team, these guys around me, this staff and this organization will do a great job of helping me out, embracing me, and making sure we keep moving in the right direction.”

McGloin, who threw for 1,547 yards, eight touchdowns, and eight interceptions in six starts for Oakland in 2013, will have the same offensive unit that took down the Broncos 30-20 in Week 9 in front of the country on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in the first matchup.

In his career, McGloin has thrown for 1,847 yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing 58.3 percent of his passes.

Starting running back Latavius Murray bludgeoned one of the league’s best defenses on 20 carries for 114 yards and three touchdowns that night in front of a sold out Raider Nation crowd at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rookie running back DeAndre Washington had career-day against the Colts, carrying the ball 12 times for a career-high 99 yards and two touchdowns, both for 22-yard scores that capped off four straight touchdowns for Oakland.

The tandem of Amari Cooper (78 catches, 1,110 yards, 4 TDs) and Michael Crabtree (84 catches, 956 yards, 8 TDs) are great weapons for the former Penn State quarterback to throw to.

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio believes in the closeness of his team and the coaches.

“We’ve got a good group of guys and a good group of men and a good group of coaches and players,” Del Rio said via CBSSports.com “who are going to work hard to put together a good plan, and we go out and expect to win.”

Denver (8-7), who will miss the playoffs this year after winning the Super Bowl last year, is coming off a 33-10 loss to Kansas City (11-4) on Christmas Night at frigid and rainy Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas City racked up 484 yards of total offense and held a 21-7 lead in the first quarter against the once vaunted Broncos defense, highlighted by a 70-yard touchdown run by rookie speedster Tyreek Hill and an 80-yard catch-and-run score by tight end Travis Kelce.

Both Hill and Kelce were named to the AFC Pro Bowl team as starters with Hill being named as a return specialist for his first selection of his career.

Hill, who has superb hands is second on the Chiefs with 56 catches for 547 yards and six touchdowns, has 497 yards on 38 returns including a 78-yard punt return for a score against Oakland in a 21-13 victory on Dec. 9 in Kansas City.

Hill also has an 86-yard kickoff return for touchdown that helped Kansas City take the Broncos in overtime,  30-27, in Denver on Nov. 27.

Kelce earned his second-straight Pro Bowl nod by having another impressive year for Kansas City  with 84 catches for 1,117 yards and four touchdowns.

The playoff-bound Chiefs are hoping that Denver can knock off Oakland because a Raider loss would give Kansas City the No. 2 seed and the first-round bye, and knock Oakland to the No. 5 seed where they would open the playoffs on the road in either Pittsburgh or Houston on Wildcard Weekend.

But the Raiders have shown that they can win on the road this season going 6-1 (well 7-1 if you count playing in Mexico City that was technically considered a Raider “home” game), but that was with Carr under center, not McGloin.

Second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian has surpassed the 3,000-yard passing mark for the first time in his career with 3,195 yards, but has engineered a Broncos offense that scores just 20.6 points per game, 20th in the league.

Siemian has thrown for 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a 83.9 passer rating.

But according to Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, Siemian will share some snaps this Sunday with former  first round draft pick Paxton Lynch.

“I think Trevor deserves the right to go back out there as a starter,” Kubiak said via the Denver Post. “He’s done a lot of good things this year. He’s a young player that needs to keep going.

“I want him to get the Kansas City taste out of his mouth. It was a tough outing. Paxton is also going to play. I’m preparing both and you’ll see them both in the game.”

Just like Oakland, Denver have a premiere wide receiving corps with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders leading the way.

Thomas leads the team with 86 catches for 1,036 yards and Sanders is second with 79 catches for 1,032 yards.

Both are tied for the team lead with five touchdowns a piece.

After starting the season 7-3, Denver is just 1-4 since.

Oakland won last season’s game in Denver on Dec. 13, 15-12, behind the dominate performance of defensive end Khalil Mack who tied a franchise-mark with five sacks off former Broncos quarterback now Houston Texas  high-priced backup, Brock Osweiler that day.

The Final Snap: Murray’s big night too much for Denver

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

AP photo: Acrobatic Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) takes a leap into the end zone against the Denver Broncos during the first half on Sunday Night Football at the Oakland Coliseum

OAKLAND, Calif — The talk surrounding the Raiders’ 6-2 start was that Oakland hadn’t played an NFL heavyweight this season.

On Sunday night, the Raiders stepped out on to the national stage and took down one of the league’s premiere teams in the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos 30-20 to move into sole possession of the AFC West.

This is the first time that the Broncos have not had a share of first place in the division since Week 10 of 2013, per Elias Sports Bureau.

“Its a start. There’s a lot of games left and we’re in a really tough division,”said running back Latavius Murray after the game.

Murray recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, rumbling for 114 yards on 20 carries and a career-high three touchdowns. Oakland’s bellcow anchored a rushing attack that thrashed the Broncos’ third-ranked defense for 223 yards, the most that Denver has allowed since Week 5 of 2012, per Elias Sports Bureau.

Coming into Sunday night’s prime time matchup with the Broncos, Murray hadn’t rushed for more than 60 yards in any game this season, which makes tonight’s performance that much sweeter.

Oakland played controlled football, controlling the time of possession 41:28 to 18:32, and out-gaining Denver 16 to 6 on first downs in the first half.

Much of that controlled football can be credited by the Raiders’ commitment to running the ball against the Broncos, and the offensive line that kept quarterback Derek Carr upright.

Carr completed 20-of-31 passes for 184 yards Sunday night, after throwing for a franchise record 513 yards in last week’s 30-24 gut-wrenching overtime victory in Tampa Bay.

Amari Cooper led Oakland with six catches for 56 yards, and Michael Crabtree had just two catches for 27 yards.

Crabtree didn’t record his first catch until the Raiders’ third drive of the second half.

But Oakland’s defense, who throughout the season have had trouble stopping teams and were missing cornerback Sean Smith (shoulder), played extremely well holding Denver to just 299 total yards.

Oakland forced Denver into four straight three-and-outs  to begin the game. The Broncos had five three-and-outs in the first half.

Quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 18-of-37 passes for 283 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception, but appeared rattled early after completing just 1-of-7 passes for four yards in the first quarter.

Denver didn’t record its first first down until the second quarter after already trailing 13-0.

Defensive end Khalil Mack was just a nightmare to deal with for Denver, finishing with two sacks, three tackles (1 solo), a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. After getting off to a slow start to the season in which Mack had recorded just one sack in his first five games, Mack has six sacks in his last four games.

Now at 7-2 for the first time since 2001 and heading into the bye week, Oakland is riding high with a half-game lead over 6-2 Kansas City and a one-game lead over now 6-3 Denver with three divisional games remaining, but there is still plenty of work ahead for the Silver and Black.

The Raiders’ will be in the national spotlight once again after the bye week, when they face the Houston Texans (5-3) in a “home” game in Mexico City  on Monday Night Football on Nov. 21.