ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --With only 16 games in an NFL season, each game holds significant value.
But for Denver's Week 4 matchup with the Oakland Raiders, a little bit extra is at stake.
"It's a must-win," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "We have lost two in a row. It's a big division game -- the first division game of the year. If we can get this win and come out and be 1-0 in the division -- we don't want to be that team to go win one and lose three in a row. We need to win. It's a big win."
The Broncos are tied with two other teams in the AFC West, one being the Raiders, at 1-2. The San Diego Chargers sit in first at 2-1.
A loss would put the Broncos in third place in the division at best, sitting in a 1-3 hole with road games against the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers in the next two weeks.
A win, and as Thomas said, Denver starts off with a 1-0 divisional record.
Running back Willis McGahee said he, too, is approaching the week of preparation and Sunday's contest as if it's a must-win.
"That's the attitude we came in with this (week)," McGahee said. "It's a division game. You want to start off right in the division and get that first win."
Wide receiver Eric Decker is one of several Broncos who are yet to be part of a home victory over the Raiders. The last time Denver defeated Oakland at home was in 2007.
This week, the team's leading receiver will look to end that streak.
"Being a division game, that's the most important," Decker said. "It's a big game for us, a pivotal game. It's something we're focusing on this week as far as cutting down on mistakes, and again, making sure we're more consistent overall."
While the importance of Sunday's divisional-opener is lost by no one in the Broncos' locker room, some players maintain an even-keeled mindset.
As veteran defensive tackle Justin Bannan said, "Every game is a must-win. You only get 16 chances in this business."
Head Coach John Fox echoes Bannan's philosophy, but is aware of the added significance in the team's first divisional matchup of 2012.
"The next one is the most important one," Fox said. "They're all pivotal. There are only 16 of them. We've played three. This ends up our fourth quarter. Our division's all stacked up. I'd say any division game at this point, call it whatever you want, but it's - the biggest one is the next one and that's our next one."
Perhaps the team's quarterback, Peyton Manning, put it the best.
"Division games count double," he said.