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Sunday night in Oakland the Broncos and Raiders renew one of the NFL’s most hotly contested rivalries. What makes this game so big is not necessarily the fact that the winner will be in first place at games end. No this is much bigger, the Oakland Raiders are a young, hungry, up and coming team. The Broncos are the defending World Champions trying to hold off the heir apparent. This will be a huge statement game for both teams.

The Raiders have won 5 straight road games and are led by MVP candidate QB Derek Carr, who last week threw for over 500 yards. It looks like the Broncos vaunted secondary will be without star CB Aquib Talib. With Talib out, there will be even more pressure on the Denver pass rush to disrupt Carr.

The Raiders are just 1-2 at home in the black hole this year, and they play their next 4 games at home. They were dominated at home by Kansas City  a few weeks ago and that game is what makes me question my pick. When I first sat down to write this article I was in the thought that this was a slam dunk for the Raiders. That is until I remembered that Chiefs game. A big difference is the Chiefs were able to run the ball in a fashion I don’t think the Broncos can.

The team’s strength’s and weaknesses mirror each other, as you have a powerful Raiders offense against the vaunted Broncos defense. On the other side, you have a struggling Broncos offense against a struggling Raiders defense. The advantage here goes to the Raiders because I think the Broncos offensive line will be a huge liability and the Raiders have talent on the defensive side of the ball.

When you talk strengths I will side with the Raiders offense over the Broncos defense, mainly because of the injury that will keep Aquib Talib off the field. Now the Broncos do have quality depth at the position with Bradley Roby filling in, and I by no means think this will be an easy game for Carr. I just think in the end the combo of Cooper and Crabtree will be too much for the Broncos to handle.

I expect this to be a classic AFC West matchup that will go down to the wire. Last year these two teams played two close low scoring games, I look for a few more points this year. My pick, in the end, will be the Raiders 24  Broncos 20.