It's a scenario that has recently become familiar in the storied Raiders-Broncos rivalry. The end of the season is approaching. One team needs a win to stay in the thick of the playoff hunt and one team, already eliminated from the postseason, is trying to derail the other's season. For three straight years and and four out of the last six seasons, the spoiler has successfully spoiled.
In a '09 Week 15 matchup, the 4-9 Raiders went into Denver to battle the 8-5 Broncos. The Raiders pulled out a 20-19 comeback victory led by JaMarcus Russell. In a '08 Week 12 battle, the 2-8 Raiders took on the 6-4 Broncos in Denver. The Raiders routed the Broncos 31-10. In Week 13 during the '07 season, the 5-6 Broncos traveled to Oakland to take on the 3-8 Raiders. The Raiders again routed the Broncos, 34-20. Then, back in the '04 season, the 3-7 Raiders went into Denver for a Week 12 contest against the 7-3 Broncos. The Raiders edged out a 25-24 thriller.
This time, however, in stark contrast to recent history, it is the Raiders who enter the game with playoff aspirations and the Broncos who will try to spoil them. The Broncos have had a rough season. Evident in the fact that this will be the second game under interim head coach Eric Studesville. Studesville took over for Josh McDaniels after he was relieved of his duties following the illegal taping of the San Francisco 49ers practice while in the midst of a disappointing season.
A 59-14 loss to the Raiders in Week 7 no doubt figured a prominent role in McDaniels' dismissal. If the Broncos are going to successfully slide into the spoiler role, they are going to have to do a much better job of stopping the run. The Broncos are 31st in rushing yards allowed per game, 22nd in yards allowed per rush and last in rushing touchdowns allowed.
In that Week 7 matchup between these two teams, the Broncos gave up 328 yards and five touchdowns on 52 carries. They will likely have to cut these numbers in half to have a shot in this contest. For the Raiders, the game plan should be simple, run the rock. It is what they do best and is what they should be able to do against the Broncos while keeping their playoff hopes alive and well.
The 3-10 Broncos didn't exactly receive a boost in their play from the coaching change last Sunday. They lost to the Arizona Cardinals 43-13. The Raiders meanwhile will have to refocus after their heartbreaking 38-31 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars after they blew a 10 point second half lead. They certainly have the edge in this matchup, but if recent history has taught us anything, it's that you can throw out the stats for this rivalry and rely on the old "On Any Given Sunday" adage.