Oakland Raiders (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
TV: CBS, Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
SERIES: 94th meeting. Raiders lead series 53-38-2, Broncos have won 19 of 24 since Mike Shanahan became head coach in 1995 and the last four in succession. Broncos won the last game 17-13, erasing a 13-7 lead in the fourth quarter and winning on a one-yard pass from Jake Plummer to Kyle Johnson. The Raiders had one final possession, but Andrew Walter fumbled away the snap with 1:50 to play.
PREDICTION: Broncos 20-13
KEYS TO THE GAME: Whether or not Raiders coach Lane Kiffin knows if QB Josh McCown will be healthy enough to start is irrelevant -- the Broncos have had to prepare to face him or Daunte Culpepper. Kiffin's goal is to run the ball, manage field position and avoid turnovers. In turn, the Broncos will use eight men in the box and attempt to force the Raiders to pass in order to move the ball. ... Broncos coach Mike Shanahan busted out some inventive play-calling last Sunday, including an option play for QB Jay Cutler. He might be a bit more cautious until the Raiders force his hand, but expect Shanahan to spread the field similar to what Detroit did to Oakland. RB Travis Henry will get plenty of work, and slot WR Brandon Stokley could be a big factor working against nickel CB Stanford Routt.
KEY INJURIES: Raiders: McCown's (finger/ankle) status is unclear; C Jeremy Newberry (hamstring) is unlikely to play and would be replaced by Jake Grove. Broncos: CB Domonique Foxworth (ankle) is walking with a limp and unlikely to play; LG Ben Hamilton (concussion) will be replaced by Chris Myers.
FAST FACTS: The Raiders have rushed for at least one hundred yards just once in the past 10 meetings. ... The Broncos are 11-1 in home openers under Shanahan.
--QB Josh McCown practiced with injuries to his right index finger and right foot. He split first-team reps with Daunte Culpepper and may be well enough to start against Denver.
--CB Duane Starks did not practice due to a groin injury and is unlikely to play against Denver.
--C Jeremy Newberry missed practice for the second straight day with a pulled hamstring, but said he is improving and has played in the past after missing practice all week.
--G-T Paul McQuistan, listed as a guard on the depth chart, was the first backup tackle against Detroit when the Raiders chose to deactivate rookie OT Mario Henderson.
--DT Gerard Warren, who played in Denver the past two seasons, was getting snaps with the Raiders' short-yardage defense alongside Tommy Kelly inside, with starter Terdell Sands coming off the field.
--TE Stephen Alexander returned to practice on Thursday. He missed last week's game and Wednesday's practice because of a calf injury.
--WR Rod Smith was added as a captain this week. He will miss at least Denver's first five games because he's on the physically unable to perform list, but he is still a leader in the locker room. He was on the Broncos' trip to Buffalo. Smith said he had no update on his status as he recovers from hip surgery.
--DE Elvis Dumervil will probably go to a backup role this week if Simeon Rice is ready to start. The Broncos think Dumervil could eventually be an every-down player, but he also has a lot of value as a pass rusher and he will be fresh coming off the bench.
--DE Tim Crowder practiced again Thursday, and he could play this week. Crowder missed last week's game with an ankle injury.
--CB Domonique Foxworth was out of practice again Thursday with a sprained ankle and is unlikely to play. Jeff Shoate would likely be Denver's nickel cornerback.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
It was a nice beginning, but if LaMont Jordan hopes to join his AFC West brethren among football's elite, there is no better time to start than Sunday against the Denver Broncos. Jordan had 15 carries for 70 yards and caught nine passes for 89, the latter a career high and just one reception less than he caught in 11 games last season.
His 12 first downs were the most in the NFL -- six rushing and six passing. Jordan missed the last five games of 2006 with a knee injury and gained just 434 yards after rushing for 1,025 in 14 games in 2005, the year he signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Raiders to be the lead running back.
"Last season ended early for me and a lot of people counted me out. I heard a lot and nothing positive, whether it was fans, whether it was media, so this is a big year for me to prove that I am capable of being the so-called lead back."
The Raiders ranked 32nd in rushing in 2005 and were 29th last season, looking up at three of the top rushing teams in the NFL -- San Diego, Denver and Kansas City. The Broncos, who run well no matter who the lead back is, went out and signed Travis Henry, who had 139 yards in his first game, to give them a lead back to compete with the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chiefs' Larry Johnson. Jordan hopes to join the party.
"Right now I'm second in the AFC West (in rushing), which is a first since I've been here," Jordan said. "I'm determined. I still have a long ways to go, I still have to get better shape. I missed a lot of training camp, still want to drop some weight. But I'm really encouraged with what I saw out there from us when we were doing things right."
AFC West backs have brutalized the Raiders since Oakland last won the division in 2002. Oakland has given up 100 yards rushing to an AFC West runner 12 times and hasn't had any of its own running backs break 100 against a division opponent since the 2002 season finale.
In 24 division games over the past four years, the Raiders have been out-rushed 157.9 yards to 80.6 and have just 12 rushing touchdowns to 32 for AFC West opponents.
Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler showed his team he can lead them through bleak circumstances. Cutler and the Broncos were backed up facing third and 23 with less than two minutes left against Buffalo, and led the team to a game-winning field goal.
Cutler said he enjoys being in high pressure situations.
"It's fun," Cutler said. "You would rather be up 20, but that's what the quarterback position is all about. It's making plays when it counts on third downs and game-winning drives."
Cutler is only in his second year, but his teammates said he wasn't nervous in the huddle on Denver's last drive. Coaches and players say Cutler's emotions rarely change.
"I think you only get nervous if you're not too sure about your ability," receiver Javon Walker said. "We all know he has a world of ability and he's confident in it. For him, there's no need to be nervous."
Cutler hopes the confidence he gained in Week 1 carries over the next time the Broncos need to put together a game-winning drive.
"I've probably gained a little more respect, but I'm still young," Cutler said. "I'm still a little inexperienced and made some mistakes out there, but maybe I earned a few more points with them."
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