ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Perhaps if the scenario were different.
Perhaps, if the Denver Broncos had not just been shoved around on Monday Night Football as the television-viewing nation looked on in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, or perhaps if they didn’t need a win Sunday to earn a coveted postseason bye.
Maybe, if the Broncos weren’t intent on re-acquiring some playoff momentum, maybe if they weren’t at home, where they are 7-0 this season, then the Oakland Raiders (3-12) would have a have a better opportunity to tiptoe into Sports Authority Field at Mile High and steal a win.
No, if the Broncos really have playoff chops, and they have said all season they do, this is a game they need to win to earn that week of rest during the Wild Card weekend, to snag some playoff momentum and maybe even to show some folks who lit up the social-media platforms this week their league-high nine Pro Bowl selections weren't all that out of order.
As Broncos coach John Fox put it; “We’re going to get an opportunity to play for the Lombardi Trophy, we’re in the playoffs. … We always want to be in a position where we are playing our best football when the playoffs arrive and this is another opportunity to make sure we’re doing that.’’
The Broncos are undefeated at home this season and have scored at least 31 points in five of those games. The Broncos also have won six consecutive meetings with the Raiders, including 41-17 in Oakland earlier this season.
My prediction: Broncos 35, Raiders 16.