OAKLAND -- Traffic backed up quickly. Vendors lined the streets and snaked between traffic. Want a silver and black Raiders cap? What about a shirt screaming: Commitment to Excellence? Beads, medallions, visors anyone? This game on this night is a big deal.
Pulled into the parking lot and the first thing heard was a fan screaming "I am so (messed) up." Good times. Get him a coffee to get him to kickoff.
The Broncos face the Raiders for the 23rd time in prime time. But this is the first time both have had a winning record and met in the second half since 2002. AFC West supremacy is on the line.
This has a chance to be a game people talk about rather than grouse about (please officials can we have one game without more flags than the United Nations?).
So here you go, Three Big Things to satisfy your appetite.
1) Pressure Derek Carr
The Broncos entered Sunday tied for the league lead in sacks with 26. They have recorded 75 hits on the quarterback, 19 ahead of second place Washington. Coverage works hand-in-hand with pressure. Even if the Broncos don't sack Derek Carr -- he refuses to take them by throwing the ball away -- they need to live in his face. The Broncos want to win ugly, so one play -- a deflection by Jared Crick or Derek Wolfe -- can lead to a pick six or a long return that changes the game.
2) Walk the Line
The offensive line can't be this inconsistent. The Broncos boast more talent than a year ago. Tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson were signed for this game to protect the quarterback from Khalil Mack. Mack made All-Pro at two positions last season because of his five-sack game against the Broncos last December that ended Denver's eight-game winning streak against Oakland. The Raiders don't stop the run. If the Broncos can't run tonight, then it's fair to ask, when will they?
3) Limit mistakes
The Raiders won last week despite setting a record with 23 penalties. The Broncos can't afford such mistakes in a road game. Denver has 17 holding calls this season after receiving 19 last year. There will be few opportunities. They can't be undermined by a penalty or Denver will lose.