KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots
SERIES: 93rd meeting. The Oakland Raiders have a 53-37-2 record against the Denver Broncos, but the recent history is one-sided in Denver's favor. Since the start of the 1995 season, when once-fired Raiders coach Mike Shanahan took over in Denver, the Broncos are 18-5 against the Raiders and have swept them seven times. The Broncos won the first meeting this season, a dull 13-3 win in which there was only three second-half points combined.
2006 RANKINGS: Broncos: offense 17th (3rd rush, 28th pass); defense 15th (6th rush, 29th pass). Raiders: offense 32nd (18th rush, 32nd pass); defense 9th (27th rush, 2nd pass)
PREDICTION: Broncos 20-10
KEYS TO THE GAME: If the Raiders don't protect QB Andrew Walter better, they'll have a difficult time being competitive in any game. He was dropped nine times Monday night, and Oakland must get back to relying on the running game because they won't beat the Broncos by asking Walter to force the ball downfield. For his part, Walter has to have a quicker internal clock and get rid of the ball knowing the line won't hold for long. Oakland's defense is playing well enough to win most games, so Denver would love to build an early lead and try to simply grind out the victory like they did in the first meeting. Turnovers are the one thing that can keep the Raiders within shouting distance, so Broncos QB Jake Plummer can't do Oakland any favors.
FAST FACTS: Broncos: WR Rod Smith has 100 career receptions against Oakland. ... Coach Mike Shanahan is 18-5 against Oakland. Raiders: With the next sack allowed, the Raiders will equal last season's total of 45. ... Have not allowed a touchdown pass in the past two meetings.
--RB Tatum Bell (two injured big toes) practiced again Thursday and said he would be ready to play Sunday. He missed the game against Pittsburgh last week when the Broncos decided he wouldn't be at full speed and sat him out.
--WR Rod Smith should be ready to play this week. He practiced Wednesday and Thursday despite being listed as questionable on the injury report with a shoulder injury.
--WR Brian Clark has given the Broncos a bit of a spark as a kickoff returner. He was signed off the practice squad and was given the job, which Quincy Morgan held. The Broncos also like the rookie's upside as a receiver.
--RB Cedric Cobbs could be active again as the third running back. The Broncos might not be 100 percent sure Tatum Bell can last a full game, so they could have Cobbs ready for depth.
--CB Karl Paymah played a lot on defense when Darrent Williams was hurt last week. Paymah is a good special teams player and the Broncos haven't given up on the second-year player as a cornerback, but he doesn't have much experience.
--RB LaMont Jordan has played against Denver only twice in his five-year career, carrying 37 times for 108 yards and no touchdowns -- both times with the Raiders. Jordan, listed as probable with a lower back injury, practiced at full speed and is expected to face Denver.
--FB Zack Crockett was the ball carrier the last time the Raiders had a rushing touchdown against Denver 25 quarters ago in the third quarter of a 31-10 loss in 2003.
--WR Jerry Porter, who missed Wednesday's practice with an undisclosed personal issue, returned Thursday and is expected to face Denver. Porter played the majority of the snaps from the third series on against Pittsburgh but was used sparingly against Seattle.
--LG Barry Sims missed practice Thursday. Although he is still listed as questionable, coach Art Shell has ruled him out of the Denver game.
--SS Michael Huff has shown no effects from a slight concussion sustained against Seattle and will be ready to face Denver.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
The Broncos have 10 players listed as questionable on the injury list, but there hasn't been much definitive word on who will play.
The team isn't giving many tips. The only player listed as worse than questionable on the injury report was safety Sam Brandon, who has a knee injury and already has been put on injured reserve.
For many of the injured players, coach Mike Shanahan offered the same assessment. They're sore, and the Broncos don't know yet if they will play.
"We'll find out at the end of the week," Shanahan said.
Defensive ends Ebenezer Ekuban (thigh) and Patrick Chukwurah (hamstring) and linebacker Ian Gold (hamstring) missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. Cornerback Darrent Williams (shoulder) has practiced on a limited basis. The other injured players have practiced, adding to the speculation of who will be ready to play.
Williams thinks he'll be available.
"I'm feeling pretty confident," Williams said. "I think I'll be ready to go by Sunday." Running back Tatum Bell, who is listed as questionable with two injured big toes, also said he would be ready.
"I'm playing this week," Bell said.
Corey Hulsey isn't asking for a do-over, but he is looking forward to a second chance. The Raiders reserve guard had a rough first start in Monday night's 16-0 loss to the Seahawks, and he conceded the fast and furious pace got the better of him for a while.
Hulsey started in place of Barry Sims at left guard, and it could be an extended stay. Sims has an abdominal strain that could sideline him for a few more weeks.
Coach Art Shell said Hulsey would start against Denver on Sunday, and Hulsey believes he will be better for the experience in Seattle.
"You can practice it all week and everything, but there's nothing like game speed," Hulsey said. "We try to show it as much as we can, but there's no way you can do it."
The first half, in particular, was a nightmare for the Oakland line. Quarterback Andrew Walter was sacked seven times, the most in a half of football since Neil O'Donnell of the Jets was dropped seven times in 1996.
Walter was sacked twice more in the second half, nothing to be proud of but considerably better than seven.
The Raiders also got some things done with the running game in the third quarter, although Shell admitted they had erred by not running more often. Oakland finished with 13 carries for 64 yards.
With the Raiders having surrendered a staggering 44 sacks through eight games, opponents will continue to apply the pressure until the line shows it can handle it.
"Seattle kept coming, they never backed off," Hulsey said. "But we were able to recognize it better and do a better job. We've just got to do that from the get-go next time out."
It's been a strange year for Hulsey in that he began the season preparing to be the starting center when Jake Grove was lost to a shoulder injury. Rather than start veteran backup and long snapper Adam Treu, Shell instead tabbed Hulsey, figuring his more powerful build would be better against San Diego nose tackle Jamal Williams.
But Grove recovered faster than expected, and something strange happened. Hulsey was declared inactive. He'd gone from starting center to inactive in a day, with Shell explaining because of special teams and depth, it was the necessary move.
Hulsey remained inactive until the Seattle game. He deferred to the coaches for making the decisions and took the same route with regard to the play-calling by offensive coordinator Tom Walsh, which put the offensive line in too many pass blocking sets against Seattle.
"It would help if we ran more, but it comes back to the players," Hulsey said. "If coach Walsh calls 80 pass plays, then we've got to block 80 pass plays. There's nothing we can do about it. We have to execute the game plan."
Broncos Update Community Forums