T.J. Ward's Comments Are A Reminder That It's Raider Week For The Broncos

With both the Broncos and the Raiders in contention for the AFC West crown, the old animosity is coming out as the two sides gear up for Sunday Night Football.

There is an old joke about a 500-pound gorilla — and where does it sleep? For people who don’t know, the answer is simply wherever it wants.

The Denver Broncos defense continues to forge an identity that resembles a massive gorilla. It does and says whatever it wants and dares the opposition to prove otherwise.

The latest example of the take-no-prisoners mindset came from newly-minted team captain T.J. Ward. Denver7's Troy Renck asked the hard-hitting safety about the Oakland Raiders receiving duo of Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. Ward responded frankly.

“I feel they have two good receivers," Ward said. "They don’t have two elite receivers.”

These are the same players — Crabtree and Cooper — who have combined for 1,356 yards and eight scores through the first half of the season, while helping Oakland fight to the top of the AFC West for the first time in recent memory. Still, Ward didn't stop there. He doubled down. 

"I don't like the Raiders. I grew up a 49ers fan," Ward said. "This is big. It's a playoff-type game with meaning down the road."

With quarterback Derek Carr at the helm, and the likes of running back Latavius Murray also in tow with Crabtree and Cooper, the Raiders boast one of the most potent offenses in the league. They're heading into the Sunday night matchup with Denver averaging 401.6 yards of total offense per game, good for fifth best in the league.

In a recent interview, Carr gave the Broncos respect, while also making it clear that he and his teammates are unafraid. 

"The road to win the division goes through them," Carr said this week via ESPN. "The road to the Super Bowl goes through them. They're on top. Everyone wants to crown us because we haven't won for so long and now we are (winning). But we are not on top. We respect everybody, but fear no one."

It may seem like bravado, but the Denver defense continues to build off of last year's record-breaking campaign. The No Fly Zone boasts the No. 3 defense in the league, allowing 301.2 yards yards per game and are tied for the league lead in sacks with 26.

They continue to be the backbone of the defending World Champions, leading the way to a 6-2 mark at the season’s halfway point.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1724089-inside-the-matchup-bronco... With both the Raiders and Broncos battling for first place in the division, the age-old rivalry seems to have rekindled over the last couple of years. This rivalry has featured so many memorable moments, like Denver's dramatic win in the AFC Championship in 1977 and Bo Jackson breaking Denver defensive back Steve Foley’s arm during a punishing run — to name only two.

Denver's most recent matchup with Oakland — Week 14 of last year — featured Khalil Mack's dominating five-sack performance that led to a Raiders win at Mile High. When both teams are good and both are competing for first place in the division, it makes this game must-see-TV.

We can infer from Ward's comments that it’s Raider Week. And it feels good to say that. For the first time in a long time, it’s not just another ho-hum game against a hapless division opponent but a game where the stakes are that much higher because of the animosity both teams and fanbases have for one another.

Both teams know how crucial this game is for the Division scope and the AFC playoff picture. Here’s to hoping that this game serves as the next chapter in a rivalry dating all the way back to the old AFL days — with the Broncos coming out on top. 

Adam Uribes is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @auribes37.

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