Oakland Raiders (2-8) at Denver Broncos (6-4)
KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
TV: CBS (Dick Enberg, Randy Cross)
SERIES: 97th regular-season meeting, Raiders lead series 54-40-2, Broncos won the first matchup this season. In the season opener, Denver won 41-14 at Oakland. The Broncos have won six of the last seven against the Raiders.
PREDICTION: Broncos 27-17
KEYS TO THE GAME: With QB JaMarcus Russell struggling, Oakland needs to pound away at the Broncos' 26th-ranked run defense that is hobbled by injuries across its linebacker corps. The Raiders are last in the league with a 22.4 conversion rate on third down, but should improve that number. Denver's undersized defensive front will be outmanned in short-yardage situations and the Broncos are minus all three of their starting linebackers. ... The Raiders have allowed at least 192 rushing yards in four of their past five games, and the Broncos will attack that weak spot with a mix of rookie Peyton Hillis, Tatum Bell and P.J. Pope. It's all to set up the pass, which Oakland defends much better. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan called Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha "the most underrated football player that I have ever seen," and new starter Chris Johnson is impressing in his first extended action.
Key Injuries: Raiders: DE Derrick Burgess (triceps) should play after missing six games. Broncos: CB Champ Bailey (groin) is uncertain; LBs Nate Webster (knee) and D.J. Williams (knee) are out; RB Selvin Young (groin) is unlikely to play.
Need to know: Oakland has scored a league-low 33 points in the first half this season. ... The Broncos have seven rookies who have made a combined 28 starts.
-- CB Chris Johnson missed practice Thursday after injuring his knee late in Wednesday's practice but coach Tom Cable expects him to play against Denver.
-- C Jake Grove missed practice with a calf injury Thursday and is unlikely to face Denver, with John Wade making his second straight start.
-- LB Ricky Brown missed practice with a groin injury Thursday and is unlikely to face Denver, with Sam Williams making his third straight start.
-- QB JaMarcus Russell was limited in practice Thursday with knee and ankle concerns, but got most of the work and is expected to start in Denver.
-- WR Chaz Schilens was limited in practice Thursday with an ankle injury and may not start against Denver. He has no receptions in his last three games.
-- T Mario Henderson missed part of practice Thursday with back spasms but is expected to be available against Denver as a backup to Kwame Harris.
-- QB Andrew Walter was limited with an ankle injury Thursday and could give way to Marques Tuiasosopo as the backup quarterback for the second straight week.
-- RB Darren McFadden practiced with no limitations for the second straight day Thursday and should have an increased workload against Denver.
-- DE Derrick Burgess, out for the last six games with a triceps tear, will not only play but is expected to step back into the starting lineup at left end.
--TE Nate Jackson is out for the season. He suffered a freak injury running a route during practice Wednesday and would have needed six-to-eight weeks recovery time.
--TE Tony Scheffler should see his playing time increase. He has been limited in his two games back from a groin injury, but the Broncos had Nate Jackson, a similar player who is now out for the season. Scheffler will play most of the time when the Broncos use two tight-end sets.
--TE Chad Mustard was signed to the active roster. He has been signed and released by the Broncos many times over the past few years. His main strength is as a blocker.
--RB Selvin Young was upgraded from not participating in practice to being limited. He is still unlikely to play this week but could return next week.
--CB Champ Bailey practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day. Bailey will be a game-time decision. The Broncos won't rush him back if he isn't ready to go.
INSIDE THE CAMPS
Interim coach Tom Cable is trying to get Michael Bush to embrace the idea of playing fullback.
It's been a slow process.
"Michael should really address and be open-armed to playing fullback," Cable said. "He can be a special, special fullback in this league. And we've talked about it with him, and I don't think he's real comfortable with it yet."
That would be an understatement.
"Do I like it? Do I want to play there? Do I think I'm a fullback?" Bush said. "No."
Yet he's taking snaps at fullback anyway, and noted that during a recent practice he "didn't touch the ball once."
At 6-feet-1, 245 pounds, Bush is a halfback trapped in a fullback's body. He has nimble feet, and is shifty enough to make a tackler miss while at the same time having the ability to lower his shoulder and finish a run.
"I've never had the mentality to go run into a wall," Bush said. Bush has very good hands as a receiver out of the backfield -- something the Raiders like in their fullbacks.
"I just want people to know what position I play," Bush said. "I'm not a fullback. I think it's a waste of my talent. I'm not trying to be a negative person that doesn't want to help the team."
Cable thinks Bush could add some diversity to the offense.
"The nice thing about him is he can run with the football a little bit, and it would allow you, with the runner behind him, to put that runner in motion, put him in the flanker spot and still have a runner in the backfield," Cable said. "I think it's something that if Michael puts more thought into it, he'll see those opportunities."
He also thinks Bush's blocking skills are more than adequate.
"Michael is probably our best one-on-one pass protector, you've seen him hit a blitzer and stone him at the line of scrimmage, stone a defensive end, so there's no question he has it in him," Cable said.
Bush continued to get work at fullback in Thursday's practice, and although he was less than thrilled with the idea when talking to the press, Cable said he likes what he has seen in practice.
The Denver Broncos might be the team that finally challenges Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, the Raiders' defensive standout.
Most teams ignore Asomugha, but the Broncos aren't acting as if they will change their normal game plan.
v The Broncos do expect Asomugha to stay on the right side instead of follow around their top receiver Brandon Marshall. That would help them manipulate matchups.
"He is a lot more comfortable in that right corner position because he can get his left arm on you," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "When he gets over to the other side, he's just not as effective."
The Broncos have a great deal of respect for Asomugha. Cutler said he is one of the best press cover corners in the NFL. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan took his praise even further, saying Asomugha was the most underrated player he has been around in his coaching career.
Marshall said he enjoys a challenge and is looking forward to the snaps he gets against Asomugha. "He is always in the right place," Marshall said. "He knows what he is doing so it is definitely going to be a chess match out there."
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