ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --With the Raiders coming to town on Sunday to kick off the Broncos' divisional slate, there's an increased focus in the locker room.
From the veterans to the rookies, everyone can appreciate the importance of a historic rivalry.
"You can tell the feeling in the locker room," defensive end Derek Wolfe said. "We have to fix some things first, but there's definitely a sense of urgency."
Oakland leads the all-time series 59-42, with the franchises tying twice in their 102 previous regular season matchups. The clubs split the season series in 2011 with each team winning on the road.
The Broncos haven't beaten the Raiders at home since 2007. That's a fact that resonates in the locker room and has the players itching to protect their homefield on Sunday.
"It's crazy," said linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who is preparing for his eighth game in the series on Sunday. "It's one of those games where both teams cannot be going to the postseason. It's like a playoff atmosphere. It's always a big game and a big rivalry and we're excited to play it every year."
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is relatively new to the rivalry. That doesn't mean the significance is lost on the third-year player.
"I feel it," Thomas said. "I hear some players talk about it and you see a lot of fans, always. I'm starting to feel it. As the years go on, I think I get better with it. I'm looking forward to it."
Wolfe hasn't played against the Raiders yet, but he's eager to jump in.
"This is why you play, for rivalries like this," Wolfe said. "When somebody says this is a rivalry game, you have a sense of urgency. This will be the first time stepping out there in this environment, so I just have to be ready to go."
Another Bronco that will be making his first appearance in a Denver-Oakland contest is no stranger to NFL rivalries.
Having spent 14 seasons in Indianapolis to open his career, quarterback Demaryius Thomas played a pair of games each season against the Colts' AFC South opponents, not to mention 16 regular-season games and three postseason contests against New England.
"When I played in Indianapolis, we had our rivalries and so I know what it means to have a rivalry," Manning said. "I'm not as familiar with this one, but I also know it's a pivotal game. It's a division game, which counts double. We're 1-2, they're 1-2. It's a game that we need to play well and need to try to get a win."
While Manning has yet to play against the Raiders while wearing orange and blue, he realizes how important this game is to both sides and the historical significance of the matchup.
"I'm a guy that has an appreciation of football and the history of it," Manning said. "I certainly understand what an important rivalry it is and the great games that have occurred in this series, the great players that have played in this game.
Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson didn't need many words to sum up Sunday's importance.
"It's real simple," he said. "It's Oakland week."