Baseball pennant aces lend for a lot of scoreboard watching. The Oakland Raiders (9-5) and Denver Broncos (8-6) will not need to employ that practice when they meet Sunday afternoon at Network Associates Coliseum.
Oakland currently has the inside track for the AFC West title but a loss to Denver would create a murky situation. The Raiders can clinch their third straight division crown with a win coupled with a Kansas City (7-7) win over San Diego (8-6).
"That's great for us," Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown said. "We don't have to concern ourselves with what other teams are doing."
Oakland blasted Denver 34-10 in the first meeting in a Monday night contest. That win had an extended effect for both clubs. For the Raiders, it saved their season because they were 4-4 entering that contest and began a five-game winning streak that got snapped Sunday in Miami with a 23-17 loss. For Denver, it started a tailspin of losing four of five contests after entering that game with a 6-2 mark.
"There might have been a carryover effect," Denver outside linebacker John Mobley said in Wednesday's teleconference. "It was kind of a hangover if you will. I think a lot of guys lost faith in the scheme."
Conventional wisdom suggests Denver might have revenge as a motive but that factor is virtually negligible. Granted, the Broncos did not like getting tails handed to them on Monday night but playoff ramifications alone make Sunday's game vital.
"Both of us are playing for a lot of marbles," Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon said. "We're going to get their best and they're going to get our best."
Oakland's loss to Miami coupled with Denver's 34-21 win over Kansas City helped make Sunday's game pivotal.
"Everything is down to the wire," Mobley said. "There's no better way to have it than the Broncos and Raiders in December."
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at email@example.com