ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Joe Flacco is a human metronome. His resting heart rate checks in around 28 beats per minute. Or it should. Nothing bothers Flacco. He sits five days away from his debut as a Bronco, five days away from dealing with the gravitational pull of the Black Hole and five days away from his ears ringing from AC/DC and Metallica, and he remains calmer than an air traffic controller.
There is a been-there-done-that vibe to Flacco's career that inspires confidence for a Broncos team seeking to snap a three-game losing streak in Oakland. Flacco owns an 8-3 record in season openers. The Broncos have won seven straight curtain pulls. They are underdogs, but believe this year's trip to the Bay will be different.
"Listen, it's nice to get back into it for a game that matters. We only get 16 games. It's gotta be the fewest in any professional sports. Everyone matters," Flacco said. "You never know which one is going to matter the most. The key is to keep it simple. That allows to play smart and play fast."
Flacco and Derek Carr compare favorably over the past five years statistically. If Flacco outplays Carr, the Broncos should win. In that regard, optimism sprouts stems of hope on the sidewalk of broken dreams. Flacco is 12-22 on the road since 2014. However, he is 1-1 at Oakland, and has played well, completing 51-of-69 passes for 606 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. Flacco's 74-percent completion percentage dwarfs the Broncos' numbers in their past three seasons in Oakland, when three different quarterbacks completed 56 percent of their passes with six touchdowns and four interceptions.
"Flacco’s a baller. He’s a baller, probably one of my favorite quarterbacks of all-time. Him and Peyton (Manning), they’re close, neck and neck," said Sanders when I asked him what the Broncos should expect from Flacco. "I’m looking forward to going out on Sundays and competing with him week-in-and-week-out because I know what type of guy he is. I know the type of energy he’s going to bring and I know he’s going to be consistent with his personality because I just know it just hanging out with him. I’m looking forward to just going out and trying to showcase our talents together and hopefully we can be one of those duos and put up a lot of points and win a lot of games.”
At this point, it's not even about the points. The Broncos defense seeks a quarterback that can flip the field.
"First of all Joe controls the clock," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "That's something we lacked last year. Just holding onto the ball helps a lot."
No love for Coliseum
This is Denver's last time in Oakland. Seriously. The Broncos thought they were through with the place last December. The autumn wind might be a Raider, but the field is a potential sewer. It's like AC/DC meets Woodstock. Trust me, it's not a favorite spot among visiting players.
"It's a baseball field," nose guard Shelby Harris said. "I don't get it. How does a pro football team play on a baseball field? I don't understand who thought that was a great idea ever. It blows my mind."
Added defensive end Derek Wolfe, who called this a must-win game, "It's just the Raiders, man. It's just dirty, grimy Raiders. I don't like them. We want to beat them. You want to play well against them. No matter what the record is we always have a good game against each other."
Playing the Raiders will become a favorite stop in 2020. That's when they relocate to just off the strip in Las Vegas.
Coach Vic Fangio said linebacker Todd Davis (calf) remains questionable for Monday. Corey Nelson will be expected to contribute defensively and on special teams. ... The Raiders downplayed the circus surrounding star receiver Antonio Brown, who has been mired in issues from head (helmet) to toes (frost bite) this summer. Wednesday, he revealed his anger about being fined $40,000, posting the letter from the team on social media. "I don't know about the drama, but he is a great player. I consider him one of the best receivers in the world. He be brings us the firepower that we need," coach Jon Gruden said. ... Wolfe admitted the Broncos' defensive potential is limitless under Fangio. "He's a mastermind, the Godfather." .... Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. embraces facing Brown. "It’s a great matchup. It’s one of the best versus the best that’s been doing it for a long time. It’s going to be fun. It’s a rival game. It’s not just us. We’ve been facing [Oakland Raiders WR] Tyrell Williams for a while. It’s been great battles with him too. It’s going to be a great competition.”