KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: CBS, Dick Enberg, Dan Dierdorf, Armen Keteyian
SERIES: 90th meeting. The Oakland Raiders lead the series over the Denver Broncos 53-34-2. The two teams have split two playoff games. The rivalry has always been heated and it will continue to be at least as long as Mike Shanahan is Denver's coach. Shanahan still has a feud with Raiders owner Al Davis, who fired Shanahan in 1989. *2005 RANKINGS: Broncos: offense 3rd (2nd rush, 19th pass); defense 22nd (5th rush, 29th pass). Raiders: offense 13th (27th rush, 6th pass); defense 23rd (17th rush, 22nd pass)
PREDICTION: Broncos 30-23
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Raiders' mindset entering the game following last Sunday's heartbreaking loss to Kansas City will be critical. They can't afford to come out flat against a Broncos team coming off its bye week and seeking to put a stranglehold on the AFC West. Oakland's offense is at its best when RB LaMont Jordan is getting consistent carries, which would set up the play-action pass for QB Kerry Collins to test Denver's shaky secondary. However, the Raiders again enter a game not knowing how much they will get from WR Randy Moss. If the Broncos want to build a lead, they will pound away with RBs Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell. If Denver's running game is successful, QB Jake Plummer will then take shots at the Raiders' beat-up secondary, although the big pass play has been the one lacking ingredient in Denver's offense for most of the season.
FAST FACTS: Broncos: Are 12-4 in games immediately following a bye week. ... Coach Mike Shanahan is 15-5 (.750) against Oakland, whom he was the head coach for from 1988-89). Raiders: All three victories have come in games in which Jordan has had at least 20 carries. ... Seek fourth consecutive game with at least 23 points for the first time since 2002.
Broncos: --CB Champ Bailey practiced again on Thursday and appears to be as healthy as he has been in a while. Bailey's injured hamstring seemed to improve over the bye week.
--TE Mike Leach, Denver's long-snapper, has a broken pinkie finger. But he is listed as probable on the injury report, has been practicing and won't miss any time.
--S Sam Brandon made it through a full week of practice and appears to be ready to return to the lineup this weekend. Brandon has a partially torn pectoral muscle.
--WR Todd Devoe missed practice Thursday after his father was killed in Florida, according to Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. Devoe's status for this weekend's game is uncertain.
--WR Darius Watts could be activated this weekend, depending on Todd Devoe's status for this week's game. Watts has been inactive for two straight games.
--CB Charles Woodson hasn't been present in open locker room sessions since suffering a broken right fibula Oct. 23. Coach Norv Turner said Woodson continues to rehab but said it's too early to tell if he will be put on injured reserve.
--KR Chris Carr is a big reason the Raiders rank third in the NFL in average drive start following kickoffs at the 30.8-yard line. In the last five games, Carr's long kickoff return in each game has been 36, 33, 32, 33 and 62 yards.
--DE Bobby Hamilton was limited in practice and his status will probably not be known until game day. Hamilton is one of Oakland's most stout run defenders, and the Broncos are the NFL's leading rushing teams.
--DB Renaldo Hill, a starter as the nickel back in the 4-2-5 alignment the Raiders use more than any other package, was limited in practice for the second consecutive day. Hill said he has had problems getting loose in the cool weather but expects to play against Denver.
--WR Randy Moss missed portions of 11-on-11 drills, but coach Norv Turner expects Moss to play. He played extensively against Kansas City, although he did not look to be 100 percent.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Even though Oakland Raiders receiver Randy Moss is not healthy, the Denver Broncos won't overlook him.
Moss plays his first game in the Broncos-Raiders rivalry this week, but he has been bothered by groin, pelvis and rib injuries.
"I'm not sure if he's 100 percent healthy or not, but at whatever, let's say he's 95 percent, he's still a dangerous weapon," Broncos defensive backs coach Bob Slowik said.
In fact, Slowik - who was a Packers assistant from 2000-2004 and prepared to defend Moss twice a season - said that he thinks when Moss seems to take it easy on a play, he might be setting the cornerback up to beat him deep.
"I'm not sure he doesn't do it purposely, a cagey veteran move," Slowik said. "He'll kind of pace himself of some routes and all of a sudden you'll think, 'Oh, shoot.' He'll lull you to sleep and all of a sudden he'll take off and go."
Sunday's game will be the first career meeting between Moss and Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, and it should be the first of many matchups between the two now that they are the marquee players on rival AFC West teams.
"He's definitely one of the best in the game, has been for a while," Bailey said. "It's going to be a challenge."
If Oakland Raiders quarterback Kerry Collins plays the second half of the season at the statistical level he did the first, he will complete 55.5 percent of his passes for 4,104 yards with 24 touchdowns, six interceptions and a career-high passer rating of 88.3.
If Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer plays the second half of the season at the statistical level he did the first, he will complete 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,288 yards with 24 touchdowns, six interceptions and a career-high quarterback rating of 90.9.
In Denver, some are whispering the initials "MVP" and are beginning to believe Plummer has finally evolved as a championship successor to John Elway.
That's the difference between 3-5 and 6-2. Collins understands how won-loss record alters perception.
"We're 3-5 and obviously we'd like to be 6-2," Collins said. "That's the goal. You'd like to go 3-1 in each quarter. So, no, we haven't reached our expectations."
Collins has been criticized for being too immobile, for not getting the ball to Randy Moss and for being unable to adequately handle a blitz. Raiders coach Norv Turner doesn't see a great difference between Collins and Plummer, despite their different styles.
"I think both of them are doing the things they have been asked to do in terms of managing the team, managing the game, and eliminating some of the problems," Turner said. "Both have done a great job eliminating the turnovers and interceptions."
Collins struggled through most of a 27-23 loss to Kansas City before rallying the Raiders from a 20-9 deficit to a 23-23 lead with 1:45 remaining. The Chiefs were blitzing on virtually every play, with Collins finally getting a rhythm amid the pressure.
The first scoring drive was 71 yards on six plays, with the Raiders getting 34 yards on Chiefs penalties.
On the Raiders last drive, Collins conducted an 84-yard, 14-play drive that consumed 6:22 and ended he hit Moss for a 7-yard touchdown.
"Kerry was on fire. He had that look," right tackle Robert Gallery said. "They were bringing more guys than we could block and he stood in there and completed those passes on those two drives we had."
Collins gives himself mixed reviews on the first half of the season.
"At times it's been good, at times not so good," Collins said. "I'm taking care of the ball a lot better. If we said I'd have 12 touchdown passes and three interceptions at this point, we'd say, `OK, we'll take that.'
"At the same time, my completion percentage is not where it needs to be ... it's tough to think about the positive things when you're 3-5."
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