KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: CBS, Ian Eagle, Solomon Wilcots
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.
Pass protection issues have the Raiders continuing to utilize additional tight ends more often than additional receivers, which hasn't helped the protection much -- given the 44 sacks surrendered -- and has hurt in the passing game.
The Raiders promised in training camp more receiving production out of the position, but starter Courtney Anderson (11 catches) and reserves Randal Williams, John Madsen and James Adkisson have combined for only 19 receptions through eight games.
Ronald Curry, the No. 3 receiver, meanwhile, has 16 catches in fairly limited playing time as a slot receiver.
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.
Oakland comes off a game in which they abandoned the run simply because Seattle showed some run-blitz tendencies early. The Raiders know their strengths, such as they are. Sometimes they run the ball well. They almost never pass the ball well, at least not against quality teams. So look for the Raiders to take their 2- to 3-yards per carry and hope it eventually becomes 4 and 5. And hope the defense can keep things close enough to make a game of it in the fourth quarter. If turnovers fall the right way, who knows?
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.
--SS Michael Huff has shown no effects from a slight concussion sustained against Seattle and will be ready to face Denver.