OAKLAND (AP) — Two years after finishing tied atop the AFC West with eight wins apiece, the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders couldn’t be farther apart.
The Broncos (12-3) head into Sunday’s season finale at Oakland (4-11) needing a win to clinch the top seed and home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs for the second straight year. The Raiders are stumbling to the finish of another disappointing season.
The reason for the change in fortunes for the two franchises is simple. The Broncos brought in Peyton Manning as quarterback last season and he has responded in record-setting fashion.
Manning broke Tom Brady’s single-season touchdown pass record last week by throwing his 51st and needs 266 yards passing this week to break Drew Brees’ single-season mark.
“It’s only a special thing when it comes at the same time as winning games,” Manning said. “If we were 3-12 at this point, it would not have been a unique or special accomplishment for the team because it didn’t help you win games.”
The Raiders are still searching for answers at quarterback. Terrelle Pryor showed promise early this season before falling into a rut that, along with a knee injury, gave undrafted rookie Matt McGloin a chance to start.
McGloin made a stellar debut with three touchdown passes and no interceptions in a win at Houston, but lost his last five starts, giving Pryor another chance to start in the season finale as the Raiders seek any kind of spark.
“He adds those explosive plays,” receiver Rod Streater said. “Having him back there, you never know what to expect and you always expect the big play.”
Here are a few things to watch when the Broncos visit the Raiders Sunday:
The final game of the season also could be the final game in Oakland for coach Dennis Allen. Owner Mark Davis has said he will wait until the end of the season to make any decision about the coaching staff. Allen has an 8-23 record in his first two seasons as the Raiders have been hampered by bad contracts and bad drafts in the final years of late owner Al Davis’ tenure. No Raiders coach has even been brought back after two straight losing seasons.
Streater’s quest to become the first Raiders player with a 1,000-yard receiving season since Randy Moss had a hiccup last week when he was held to one catch for 2 yards. An apparent 39-yard touchdown was waved off when he did not complete the process of the catch all the way to the ground. Streater needs 152 yards this week to reach the milestone just two years after entering the league as an undrafted free agent.