The Broncos have a 2-4 record coming into this Sunday’s matchup against the Oakland Raiders, but sometimes you have to dig below the actual won-lost record for full meaning.
No one at Dove Valley is happy to be 2-4, but anyone choosing to do the match can find that through six games the Broncos’ opponents have the best combined won-lost record in the National Football League.
Further, every team will have a final record when the season is over, but it is not over yet. In fact, in some ways it is just getting started.
Denver has six games remaining-which is to say, all of them-against their fellow American Football Conference Western Division foes. The only two teams in the league that have not yet played a game against a division opponent are Denver and the New York Giants.
You have to play the games on the field, but this means that these two teams have the maximum possible number of chances to impact their own fates. And that is a really big deal as the math continues to get added up throughout the year.
The Broncos are in a dead heat with their division foes, and it might not be a pretty race right now, but again, the race is just getting warmed up.
With 10 games remaining, those six games pit the Broncos against their fiercest opponents in a true “original” pro football division.
When the American Football League and the Broncos began play in 1960, the original AFL West consisted of: the Denver Broncos, the Oakland Raiders-who subsequently moved to Los Angeles, then returned to Oakland; the Los Angeles Chargers, who moved to San Diego in 1961; and the Dallas Texans, who became the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963. So franchise in the division has never moved from the division, even though they have changed their mailing addresses some here and there.
Of the eight divisions making up the NFL, the AFC West is the only one with the exact four teams that it had in 1960.
And the rivalries are always intense among the four.
These three opponents are the ones that Denver has faced the most in franchise history, and naturally each rivalry has been everything from lopsided to a dead-even blood feud for the players, the fans, and the cities.
Including regular season, post season, and preseason games, the Broncos have faced the Raiders 112 times, the Chiefs 108 and the Chargers 107.
You might wonder why they would play in preseason, given the chances for coaches to watch players and plays ever so closely, and the answer is none of those games has been recent. But in the 1960′s travel costs were such that teams stuck very close to home to play their exhibition games (as they were then called), and so sometimes the Broncos actually faced the Raiders twice before the season even began.
The game is a sellout once again this week, and there will be a lot of orange and blue in the stands once again as these two old rivals renew acquaintances for the first time in 2010.
There is plenty of history in Denver between the Broncos and the Raiders.
They played each other in the first-ever Broncos home game-in fact, legendary Raider quarterback and coach Tom Flores, now their color commentator, was the first opponent starting quarterback ever for a Bronco home game. They faced each other in the first Monday Night Football game in Denver history, a legendary 23-23 tie that helped put the Mile High City on the map in terms of national NFL recognition — that game helped propel the Broncos to their first winning season ever, in 1973.
The Broncos defeated the Raiders here in 1977 to earn Denver’s first AFC championship and Super Bowl berth, and that snapped a string of Oakland success in Denver that had seen the Broncos post just two ties in home games against Oakland from 1963 through the 1977 regular season. It has been rivalry with fierce emotional attachments for Broncos fans.
There is nothing like AFC West football to a fan of these original four rivals, and this week promises to be another fierce battle, and for the Broncos the first of six remaining over the balance of the season.