Sun, Nov 06, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Oakland Raiders prepare for big stage


Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio celebrates a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday last week.

Photo: AFP

Playing in high-profile NFL games is old hat for the Denver Broncos after two trips to the Super Bowl in the past three seasons.

However, it is a new experience for the Oakland Raiders, who have spent more than a decade at the bottom of the standings and far from the limelight of hyped prime time games.

For the first time since 2006, the Raiders are on the NFL’s premier Sunday night stage when they play the Broncos for first place in the AFC West today.

“This is the natural progression in building a good football team,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “We should expect to be in these games. We’re going to expect to win these games. Then we’re going to have more of these kinds of games.”

The game offers an intriguing matchup, with Derek Carr and Oakland’s high-powered offense coming off a record-setting performance in last week’s 30-24 overtime win at Tampa Bay, and facing Von Miller and the league’s most dominant defense. Both teams are 6-2, a half-game ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs in the division.

Adding more juice to the matchup is their intense, dirty rivalry.

“We’ve never liked the Raiders,” safety T.J. Ward said. “It’s always come in the same way, regardless of what their record is. It’s just a dislike we have for them. And that’s not going to change.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens feature in another terrific NFL rivalry, but one that has lost a bit of steam this season with both clubs struggling and banged up. Even so, the winner will be in first place.

The big question for Pittsburgh, who lead the AFC North, despite their mediocre 4-3 record, is whether quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has recovered enough from his left-knee surgery two weeks ago to play. Another mystery in the Steel City is whether the defense, ranked a disturbing 27th, can get stingy again.

Baltimore are coming off a bye after four straight defeats, but they have generally defended against Steelers receiver Antonio Brown well.

The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants both go into their NFC East rivalry game with 4-3 records, two games behind first-placed Dallas with nine games to go. The chance is there to get back to the playoffs.

Both teams are challenged offensively.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is last in the NFL, averaging 4.97 yards per completion. They have only one offensive play for more than 30 yards in their past four games.

If the Giants’ offense is going to wake up, Eli Manning and the receivers are going to have to do the job. Their running game is last in the NFL, averaging 70.3 yards. In the previous four games, New York have gained 78, 43, 38 and 36 yards on 70 carries. Rookie Paul Perkins might get more carries this week.

With Detroit coming to town, the Minnesota Vikings can be comforted from having won 16 of their past 18 at home against the Lions. None, though, was in the new stadium.

Minnesota have issues. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned this week in the wake of two successive losses in which the offense disappeared. Most at fault was a running game ranked 31st and an offensive line that has been rank lately.

Detroit is like most of the league: Inconsistent. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is having one of his best seasons with 16 touchdowns and four picks.

The Seattle Seahawks host the Monday night game against the Buffalo Bills and both teams are hurting in the running game.

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