The Oakland Raiders will take the biggest stage in regular season football without a few key players when they kick off against the AFC West favorite Denver Broncos Monday night.
Denver (2-0), who finished last season with only a single loss at home, will take on Oakland (1-1), a team that won only one game on the road in 2012, at 5:30 p.m.
Offensive tackle Menelik Watson, tight end David Ausberry and safety Tyvon Branch have been ruled out for the game, while linebacker Sio Moore was diagnosed with a concussion after a Saturday morning car accident. Moore and guard Lucas Nix are questionable.
Missing Branch — a key player in the Raiders defensive secondary — against a team with a great aerial attack should make the contest even more difficult. The Raiders’ front five could also struggle mightily without reasonable, if any, depth.
In case Nix is unable to start at left guard, backup center Andre Gurode will fill in. Nix has been limited in practice all week, and when Raiders head coach Dennis Allen was asked about the likelihood of Nix starting, he issued an almost definite “we’ll see:”
“We still have some time to see how he’s doing, so we’ll monitor everything up until game time.”
One interesting revelation which occurred during practice this week was backup quarterback Matt Flynn holding kicks for Sebastian Janikowski.
Punter Marquette King had held for Janikowski the first two games, but a missed field goal that many had attributed to a bad hold appears to be of some concern to the team.
During training camp, both King and Chris Kluwe had kicked well and the final decision was supposedly based on how well either could hold. Allen said of King:
“There hasn’t been a lot (of punts) so it’s hard to get a fair evaluation, but I have all the confidence in the world that when he’s called upon to do his job that he’ll go out and do a good job.”
Moore must pass NFL concussion tests before he can take the field, but tweeted on Sunday:
During the 1997 college season, Allen was working at Texas A&M while Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson were dueling for the Heisman trophy.
Woodson became the 63rd recipient of the top honor in college football while Manning was the first runner-up. Allen said he wasn’t at all shocked that the two are still playing, attributing it to the way they live their lives around football:
“Both know how to take care of their bodies, both of them understand the things they have to do to have success in this league and it’s not shocking that both have played for a very long time and at an extremely high level. It will be fun to watch those two go up against each other on Monday night.”
Despite the optimism from coach Allen, the Raiders march into Mile High Stadium as double-digit underdogs. Some might consider that point spread a gift, since the Broncos beat the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens by 21 points and the 2011 Super Bowl champion New York Giants by 18 points.