Monday Night Football brings about a rivalry as old as the NFL itself.
What’s your beef, Derek?
“It’s just the Raiders, man. They’re just dirty, grimy Raiders,” he told reporters following Wednesday’s practice, Denver’s full-scale install for Week 1. “They’re just the Raiders; you just don’t like them. You want to beat them. They’re a team you want to play well against. It’s always a good game against us, no matter what the record is. We always have a good game against each other.”
“Always” is a bit of a reach considering the Broncos’ 27-14 Christmas Eve loss to Oakland last December, which punctuated the team’s disastrous 2018 campaign and helped sign former coach Vance Joseph’s professional death warrant.
That defeat is also remembered for being the game in which star running back Phillip Lindsay suffered a significant wrist injury that required surgery and extensive recovery.
“What happened to me last time happened (injuring his wrist), now it’s time to move on, it’s time to go get a win,” Lindsay said Monday. “It is a big game. Monday night and the tradition between the Broncos and the Raiders has always been big. It’s going to be pumping. Now we’ve just got to go out there and execute.”
This year’s edition pits an on-paper improved Denver squad, led by rookie head coach Vic Fangio, against Jon Gruden, Derek Carr … and that’s about it. They had been preparing to face dynamic Raiders wide receiver and helmet connoisseur Antonio Brown, who’s not expected to play following a recent verbal altercation with general manager Mike Mayock.
It’s a break for the Broncos, and a loss for football fans (as well as ESPN’s ratings).
“It’s a great matchup,” said cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who would normally guard Brown. “It’s one of the best versus the best that’s been doing it for a long time. I think he’s a year above me and I’m right behind me, so we’ve been playing at a high level for a while. It’s going to be fun. It’s a rival game. It’s not just us. We’ve been facing [Oakland Raiders WR] Tyrell Williams for a while. It’s been great battles with him too. It’s going to be a great competition.”
The teams split their series in 2018 but this season figures to produce, if nothing else, entertaining television — naturally, given the Raiders’ debut on HBO’s hit series Hard Knocks, a show that gave us captivating, but not necessarily advantageous, storylines.
“I’m always of the mode—because they get to edit everything that goes out there—that if it looks like you’re getting a crumb, that maybe they’re planting the trap. I don’t put a lot into it,” Fangio said Wednesday.
The Broncos did not practice Thursday but released an estimation of participation. Inside linebackers Todd Davis (calf) and Joseph Jones (tricep), and fullback Andy Janovich (pectoral), didn’t participate, while cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot) and safety Trey Marshall (neck) were limited.
Davis is considered “questionable,” according to Fangio, and is shaping up as a true game-time decision, though he’s trending toward doubtful. Janovich isn’t expected to be ready until later this month.
For the Raiders, Brown, of course, was listed as DNP, as was guard Gabe Jackson (knee). Defensive tackle Corey Liuget (knee), linebacker Nicholas Morrow (ankle) and wide receiver J.J. Nelson (ankle) were limited.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL