It’s hard to call any week four game a must-win, but that’s the reality for the Denver Broncos when they take on the Oakland Raiders. The Broncos sit 1-2 and are only one game out of first place in the AFC West but given their schedule, the Broncos have to have this one.
With a win over the Raiders on Sunday, there’s a decent chance that the Broncos will find themselves in a tie for first in the division. More importantly, though, it would be a huge step towards surviving the opening six games of the schedule. The Broncos are not making excuses, but any reasonable person would look at those first six games and take a deep breath.
Throw on top of that the fact that the Broncos are trying to get to know each other on the fly, and those opening games look even tougher. A win on Sunday does not guarantee a 3-3 record going into the bye, but it does make it much more realistic.
After the Raiders, the Broncos face the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers on the road. Winning one of those games would get them to that 3-3 mark, and a good feeling heading into their bye week.
A loss to the Raiders on Sunday and the season is in danger of getting away from the Broncos. They would likely still only be one game out of the division lead but that would be back-to-back home losses with two road games on the horizon. Even a spilt in the games with the Patriots and Chargers would leave the Broncos at 2-4 going in their bye week. That would not be the end of their season, of course, but it would make the margin of error in the last ten games very slim. The worst case scenario would be a 1-5 start and that would be almost impossible to recover from.
It is only week four, but the game with the Raiders will set the tone for the next two games, and beyond. A win and the Broncos are headed in the right direction. A loss and panic sets in across the Rocky Mountain Region. Nothing like a pressure filled game before the calendar turns to October.
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