Both teams, however, are 5-4 and have had seasons that are mirror images. The Raiders started the season 4-0, outscoring their foes 162-90 and fostering talk of a Super Bowl championship. Oakland, however, sputtered and lost four straight games, two in overtime before blowing out Denver 34-10 Monday night in a season-saving win.
New England, last season's Super Bowl champion, began its season 3-0 and outscored its opponents 115-59. The Patriots, however, lost four consecutive games before rebounding to annihilate Buffalo (38-7) and rallied from a 27-6 third quarter deficit to beat Chicago 33-30.
By no means is Sunday night's game one for mathematical elimination from the AFC playoffs but a loss will make things more difficult and slow the momentum recently built on crucial wins.
"Everything is do or die," Raiders wide receiver Jerry Rice said. "We can't come out and just feel our way the game. We've got to come out and set the tempo right away."
The game is also important because of where both teams stand in their division races. Oakland trails Denver and San Diego, both 6-3, by one game in the AFC West. Denver visits Seattle (3-6) while San Diego hosts San Francisco (7-2). New England is tied with Miami and Buffalo, both 5-4, in the AFC East with the New York Jets trailing by one game at 4-5. Buffalo visits Kansas City (4-5), Miami hosts Baltimore (4-5) and the Jets travel to Detroit (3-6).