AFC West Report: Snake to Visit "Black Hole"

Jake Plummer has been one of the most pleasant surprises among the this season at quarterback of any team in the National Football League. With only three interceptions on the year the "Snake" has the Broncos in first place half in the AFC West half way through the season. The Raiders are getting better every week and can help the entire division catch up to the Broncos with a win at home on Sunday.

The Oakland Raiders were poised to move to .500 last week but the Kansas City Chiefs and running back Larry Johnson sent the Raiders (3-5) to a loss with a one yard leap into the end zone as time expired. It was a heart breaking loss for Oakland but they have been playing we'll. A lot that went wrong last week can be atoned with a win this week against the division leading Denver Broncos.

Denver comes into the game with a 6-2 record and an extra week to prepare for Oakland. The Broncos behind Jake Plummer's best year of his career so far, rank 3rd overall in the NFL on offense. Plummer ahs a 93.1 quarterback rating while throwing for 12 touchdowns on the year. He hasn't been asked to do much by Mike Shanahan, just control the game and don't lose it for the Broncos.

Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson boast the 2nd best rushing attack in the league helping to open it up for Plummer. They average nearly 171 yards on the ground and 5.3 yards a carry every time they run the ball. Both backs are on a pace to each have a thousand yard rushing season. The Cleveland Browns were the last team to accomplish that feat in 1985 when Kevin Mack and Ernest Byner did so.

Defensively the Broncos started out strong but they have slipped to the 23rd defense overall in the league, while being susceptible to the pass. They will get a stern test from Kerry Collins and the Raiders offense.

Joey Porter, not Randy Moss, has been the chief benefactor for the Raiders offense now that it appears Norv Turner has opened it up a little bit more. LaMont Jordan gets a fair share of dump passes himself and if his blocking could get a little better his gains would be even bigger than what they are now. The Raiders rank 13th overall in offense.

The Raiders are on a pace to set records as well. With at least seven penalties a game they are going to have 162 penalties by seasons end. That would break the record of 158 set by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1998.

On defense Derrick Burgess has been a beast. It will be up to him and the defense of line to put pressure on Plummer, who consistently likes to scramble out of the pocket on sprint action plays. Burgess has 7 sacks on the year coming over from Philadelphia as a free agent.

This will be 90th meeting between the rivals with the Raiders winning at Denver in the last meeting 25-24 in the snow. It was a game that Oakland has two touchdowns in the last six minutes of the game. Denver is 12-4 coming off of a bye week and 4-1 the last five years.

This is a huge game for Oakland because a loss would set them four games back of the Broncos and that would be too much ground to make up by season's end. A win by Oakland will put them two games back and will draw the San Diego Chargers to within a game of the division lead.

A Raiders win and a Kansas City Chiefs win against the Buffalo Bills would hoist the Chiefs into a tie for first place overall in the AFC West, but with a tiebreaker loss to the Broncos already. The Raiders and Broncos will play at 1:05 PST in Oakland while the Chiefs and Bills will lock up at 1:00 EST at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

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