Denver Broncos (0-0) at Oakland Raiders (0-0)
KICKOFF: Monday, 10:15 ET
TV: ESPN (Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic, Mike Ditka)
SERIES: 96th meeting. Raiders lead series, 54-39-2, and the teams have split two playoff games. Last year, Denver had a controversial overtime win at home, in which Sebastian Janikowski's field goal was disallowed because of a last-moment timeout call and then Janikowski missed the second chance. Oakland retaliated with a 34-20 home win late in the season.
PREDICTION: Broncos 21-20
Three for one: Without suspended WR Brandon Marshall, the Broncos are counting on veteran additions Darrell Jackson and Keary Colbert, but Marshall's big-play factor could be filled in by impressive rookie Eddie Royal. Rookie LT Ryan Clady will make his first regular-season start and could see time against the Raiders' top pass rusher, Derrick Burgess. So expect to see a heavy dose of running plays and short passes out of two-tight end sets. ... A Broncos defense that allowed 142.6 rushing yards per game last season face a very tough first test. The Raiders want to use RBs Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush to pound the ball and take pressure of first-year starting QB JaMarcus Russell. Oakland simply wants to avoid game-changing mistakes in the passing game, and long passing downs will be a concern with LT Kwame Harris working against DE Elvis Dumervil.
KEY INJURIES: Broncos: C Tom Nalen (knee) is likely out. LB Boss Bailey (ankle) could be limited if he plays. Jackson (ankle) said he will play. Raiders: WR Javon Walker (hamstring) has been limited in practice and is uncertain.
NEED TO KNOW: The Broncos' .657 winning percentage (23-12) in September over the past 10 years is third in the NFL. ... Walker caught 95 passes for 1,371 yards and eight touchdowns for the Broncos the past two seasons.
--DE Elvis Dumervil has practiced all week and will likely play, but he has been hesitant to proclaim himself ready to go. He has a broken pinkie and has been concerned about how playing with a cast might affect him.
--LB Boss Bailey said he would be ready to play in Week 1 after his ankle responded well after a full practice on Wednesday. However, Bailey might not go back to a full workload after missing all but two plays in the preseason.
--LB Jamie Winborn could play some at strong-side linebacker if Boss Bailey is limited. Winborn ended last season as a starter and has been a solid special-teams player.
--S Marquand Manuel doesn't know what his role will be against Oakland. He has a broken thumb, which could limit him, but he has said he will play.
--FB Cecil Sapp was cut by the team with an injury settlement. Sapp, who had been with the team since 2003, hurt himself in the preseason finale. Tight end Brett Pierce was also officially let go with an injury settlement.
--WR Javon Walker did not practice with a hamstring injury. Coach Lane Kiffin hopes Walker will practice Friday. Ashley Lelie, Todd Walker and Chaz Schilens took snaps at split end.
--DE Kalimba Edwards did not practice with a groin injury. If Edwards does not play, Jay Richardson could stay in the game at right end rather than come out for a nickel rusher, or rookie Trevor Scott could be activated to be the nickel rusher.
--CB Nnamdi Asomugha gets his first chance to play right corner opposite DeAngelo Hall. Asomugha estimated he was the target of 30 pass attempts last year and hopes that number will double this season.
--RB Michael Bush has had some snaps in the same backfield as Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden, but not as a lead blocking fullback. Lane Kiffin stressed Bush is a tailback who will rush and receive.
--RB Justin Fargas gained 146 yards on a career-high 33 carries against Denver in the Raiders' 34-20 win last season in Oakland.
INSIDE THE CAMPS:
Tight end Tony Scheffler is still uncertain what his role will be this week against Oakland, or after that.
Scheffler worked behind Nate Jackson at the No. 2 tight end spot all preseason, but the Broncos' Week 1 depth chart had Scheffler ahead of Jackson.
Scheffler said he hadn't seen the depth chart, but didn't know how much he would play against the Raiders.
"It's going to be one of those things, it's a long season and we're both going to contribute hopefully," Scheffler said. "Just got to get out there and do what the coaches tell you to do."
Without Brandon Marshall, who is suspended for one game, the tight end spot will be big for the Broncos offense. Daniel Graham's role is mostly as a blocker, but Denver uses its second tight end to create mismatches.
Jackson and Scheffler could each end up playing a role. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan wouldn't say much about the pecking order, other than he thought it was a benefit to have three capable tight ends.
It's time to see whether the Raiders can avoid being the victims of the great land rush of 2007.
When they play host to the Denver Broncos before a national television audience on Monday Night Football, Oakland is well aware opponents will be watching to see if its weakness defending the run has been rectified.
The numbers were damning. Oakland ranked 31st in rushing defense, gave up 4.8 yards per carry, the most in the league, and surrendered 24 rushing touchdowns, the most in the NFL since 2000.
Ten opposing runners went over 100 yards against Oakland, and here come the Broncos, who have built a 20-6 record over the Raiders during Mike Shanahan's tenure in large part because of their ability to run the ball.
That the Broncos duo of Selvin Young and Andre Hall is unheralded hardly matters. The Raiders were victimized last season by both journeyman and stars, from LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego to Kolby Smith of the Chiefs.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has heard all the talk, and he is tired of it. He deflects part of the problem on his own team's inability to score touchdowns, but realizes the Raiders are ultimately responsible for the yardage they surrender.
"Stats, you can do anything you want with them," Ryan said. "If you get leads, obviously, you're going to face more passing. We haven't had that luxury around here lately.
"We're making a big emphasis on stopping everything, run and pass. We've got players we're making responsible for their gaps. We've got good tacklers in the secondary, that's going to help. Our linebackers are coming on."
Defensive tackle Gerard Warren declined to put the blame on an offense that didn't score enough points.
"I fault ourselves a lot," Warren said. "Sometimes we were out of position. Sometimes we were in bad position to make the tackles. Some of the things we corrected this training camp. Form it up, make the sure tackle, be in the right places, don't ignore your assignments."
It is hoped a few personnel changes will help. Physical safety Gibril Wilson was signed during free agency to play strong safety, allowing the slender Michael Huff to move out of the box and roam the secondary as a free safety.
Ricky Brown was installed at strong-side linebacker, primarily because he is good at holding the edge.
Finally, Warren Sapp retired and Tommy Kelly was moved inside and paid $18.125 million in guaranteed money to be the "three-technique" tackle.
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