These two division rivals have been going at it for years and with the AFC West wide open again this season, Sunday’s matchup takes on extra meaning. At the moment there are three teams in the division at 1-2 and a sole leader with a record of 2-1. A win this weekend would keep Oakland or Denver in the race, while a loss would make the journey more of an uphill battle. This game will come down to the little things, so we delve into a position-by-position look at the teams.
Quarterback: This has been a comeback year for Carson Palmer, who is starting to return to his previous form. He is taking care of the football and throwing for nearly 300 yards per game. However, Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning and he has looked good in Denver this season. Advantage: Denver
Running Back: These are two teams who rely more on passing the ball than running it. Willis McGahee has been a solid contributor for Denver, but Darren McFadden showed last week he still has the ability to be a difference maker. Advantage: Oakland
Wide Receiver and Tight End: The Raiders’ receivers haven’t gotten into a groove yet with Palmer, while the Broncos receivers seem to be in sync with Manning. While Oakland may have more raw talent, until the group comes together, it will be a long road for the passing game. Advantage: Denver
Offensive Line: Evaluating offensive lines is always tricky, but protecting the quarterback is paramount. Manning has been sacked eight times and Palmer has been sacked four times. Advantage: Oakland
Defensive Line: This is a gamble on the effect of Andre Carter. The Denver defensive line is good, but the combination of Carter, Matt Shaughnessy, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly seems to appetizing to pass up. Advantage: Oakland
Linebackers: The Oakland linebackers cannot be continuously carried by Phillip Wheeler and unless Rolando McClain or Miles Burris steps up, Oakland could be in trouble. Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard have been playing at top-flight level for Denver. Advantage: Denver
Secondary: Giving up more than 370 yards passing is not the way to show your unit is strong. At least Denver has a boatload of talent in the defensive backfield, Oakland has two great safeties and two average corners. Advantage: Denver
Specialists: This is starting to sound like a broken record. Shane Lechler and Sebastian Janikowski are among the best at what they do. Matt Prater is an excellent kicker and is probably at a similar level as Janikowski, but Britton Colquitt is just not at Lechler’s level. Advantage: Oakland
Coach: It is tough for Dennis Allen to get the advantage because he is so inexperienced. John Fox has coached in the Super Bowl and went to the playoffs last year. Allen has shown himself to be capable as a coach, but he still needs to prove himself to the rest of the league. Advantage: Denver
The trip to the Mile High City will be tricky by itself, let alone when you look at the advantages the Broncos has. However, you never know which Oakland team will show up on Sunday.