ENGLEWOOD, Colo. —**A team's record can speak volumes, and there might be no louder number than zero. Unfortunately for the Raiders, that zero is in the win column.
It's easy for anyone to overlook a team without a win, but the Broncos refuse to do that, and for good reason. For all the attention that their record gets, the Raiders have put up some pretty strong games. In New England they lost by a touchdown, and just this last week they lost in Seattle just by six points. Had they not given up a touchdown on an interception return, perhaps we could be talking about the 1-7 Raiders.
And then there's the adage that you disregard records when you prepare for divisional matchups. That certainly seemed to hold some truth in the Raiders' single game against a divisional foe thus far, a three-point loss to the Chargers that came to an end in the closing moments when rookie quarterback Derek Carr threw an interception as the Raiders tried to march down the field.
So to throw out this game solely on the basis of Oakland's record could be setting yourself up for a trap, and the Broncos refuse to fall into it.
"When you play a divisional opponent on the road, historically, you just don't look at records," Head Coach John Fox said Wednesday after practice.
The players agreed, noting that what they're focused on isn't what they see on paper next to the Raiders' name, but what they see on the film is what they're preparing for.
"I really don't look at their record," Peyton Manning said. "I look at what I see on film. There are a lot of new players compared to last year. They had a midseason coaching change which sometimes allows for different things so I think you really have to try to get to know them this year and so it's not as familiar as an opponent as maybe some teams because of the changes they made.
"You study the defense and I see a defensive line that's really active and creates a lot of plays. I've seen them have some injuries in the secondary. They're getting some guys back," he added.
It was a common sentiment in the locker room, too. Jacob Tamme said he gets tired of how often he emphasizes how little consideration opponents' records get. Emmanuel Sanders said, "I know it's going to be a redundant answer all through this locker room, but we can't overlook these guys no matter what."
Montee Ball was back in pads at practice on Wednesday for the first time since injuring his groin one month ago. Check out photos of him and the Broncos preparing for Sunday's game.
Sanders observed that part of the Raiders' winless status could be a recipe for desperation in trying to get that first win: "We've got to be on all cylinders. When it gets time to this, they might go for it on fourth down, they might throw trickery here or there, so we've definitely got to be alert."
Tamme said part of their focus in preparation for the Raiders will be internal in reflecting on improvement after last week's loss to the Patriots.
"What I see is how we played last week. It was not our best, myself included. [We're] taking a long hard look at it. We all know that we need to be better and I think that's what we're focused on," he said.
But he didn't disregard the Raiders' talent, having seen some of what their defense has been successful in this season.
"You look at their front seven on defense, they're as good as anybody," Tamme said. "They play hard, they're good players. Sure, they've lost a lot of close games. It's not hard for us to realize in a divisional rivalry that the other team has talent and we know we're going to have to go play well."
The Raiders have been subject to some upheaval this season, having looked to a new head coach in Tony Sparano and plenty of player rotations. Fox had seen some changes in this time, most notably on offense.
"I think they've attempted to run the ball even though they have less rush attempts than most people," Fox said. "I think the young quarterback (Derek Carr), they've committed to [him], and he's improving every week. He can make all the throws. He's good on his feet as well as with his arm."
Though Carr has yet to notch his first victory in the NFL, the Broncos won't be counting him or the rest of the team out. Instead they'll be looking to bounce back by giving the Raiders their full focus and preparation.
"One thing about football is it never fails to throw you some bumps in the road and you just have to continue to remember what we started this for," Julius Thomas said. "I've talked about how resilient this team is. We're not going to let one night of things not going our way set us off of what we've been working towards."