|Raiders coach Dennis Allen visits Denver this week, where he was the defensive coordinator last year. (US Presswire)|
Raiders at Broncos -- Week 4
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver (grass, outdoors)
When: Sunday, 1:05 p.m. PDT (CBS)
Spread: Broncos by 7.
Forecast: Partly cloudy with a 10 percent chance of rain and a high of 71 degrees.
Records: Raiders (Overall: 1-2, AFC West: 0-1); Broncos (Overall: 1-2, AFC West: 0-0).
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Sept. 12, 2011: Raiders 23, Broncos 20; Nov. 6, 2011: Broncos 38, Raiders 24. Series record: The Raiders lead the regular-season series 59-42-2. The postseason series is tied, 1-1. Oakland has won four straight games in Denver.
What matters: The Raiders are coming off a confidence-building 34-31 victory over Pittsburgh. They avoided an 0-3 start, gave rookie coach Dennis Allen his first victory and quite possibly saved their season, considering how few teams have made the playoffs after losing their first three games. Now the Raiders face another crucial game against the AFC West rival Broncos and new Denver quarterback Peyton Manning. A win would lift the Raiders to .500 entering the bye week. A loss would drop them to 1-3 and kill all the momentum they built against Pittsburgh. This is a homecoming of sorts for Allen, who was Denver's defensive coordinator last year.
Who matters: For the second straight week, the Raiders will be without injured starting CBs Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer. Regular starting FS Michael Huff will make his second straight start at left cornerback, with Matt Giordano filling in at free safety, and Pat Lee at right corner. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns, often picking on Huff. You can bet that Manning and WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker will test Huff and Lee often.
Key matchups: Raiders LT Jared Veldheer and RT Willie Smith vs. Broncos RDE Elvis Dumervil and SLB Von Miller. Oakland's tackles will face one of the NFL's most dangerous pass-rushing duos in Miller and Dumervil. Miller, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Texas A&M, had 15 sacks as a rookie and already has three this year. Dumervil has 53.5 career sacks, including 17 in 2009 and 9.5 last year. He only has one sack this year. Smith will make his second straight start in place of the injured Khalif Barnes and his fifth career start. He started the final three games last year at left tackle for Washington.
Injuries of note: Starting RT Barnes (groin) and starting CBs Bartell (broken shoulder blade) and Shawntae Spencer (sprained foot) are officially out . Starting wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (concussion/strained neck) is doubtful. He has yet to practice or even jog this week. Starting tight end Brandon Myers (concussion) is questionable but has passed his concussion tests and has been cleared to play.
Inside stuff: The Raiders have started using more two- and even three-tight end sets, featuring starter Brandon Myers and backups Richard Gordon and David Ausberry. Myers has been targeted 15 times and caught all 15 passes, while Gordon -- the best blocker of the three -- caught his first career touchdown pass last week. The athletic Ausberry, a converted wide receiver, has three catches for 56 yards, 18.7 per catch.
Connections: Allen spent last season as Denver's defensive coordinator under Broncos coach John Fox. Fox was Oakland's defensive coordinator in 1994-95. Raiders starting left guard Cooper Carlisle played for Denver from 2000-2006. The Broncos drafted him in the fourth round in 2000.
Stats you should know: Raiders running back Darren McFadden has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his past three games against Denver. He had a combined 58 carries for 434 yards and three touchdowns during that stretch, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. McFadden is coming off a 113-yard rushing day against Pittsburgh, his 10th career 100-yard game.
Record watch: Kicker Sebastian Janikowski needs one field goal to reach 300 for his career and tie Matt Bahr and Mark Moseley for No. 22 on the NFL's all-time list.
Looking ahead: The Raiders have a bye next week, which will give them a chance to get healthier before a huge test at Atlanta, which opened the season 3-0. After that, the Raiders return home to play Jacksonville, a game they should be favored to win.
Prediction: Broncos 27, Raiders 24
Follow Raiders reporter Eric Gilmore on Twitter @CBSRaiders.