Pick Six: Raiders Look To Open AFC West Play On A Positive Note

All 16 regular season games are important, but divisional games feel just a little more important than your average, non-conference tilt.

Headed into Week 4 with a record of 2-1, Head Coach Jack Del Rio and the Oakland Raiders open AFC West play this weekend in Denver against the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, and will try to get back in the win column after last week's loss to the Washington Redskins.

Coach Del Rio continually stresses the importance of winning the division, and while we're not yet a quarter into the season, winning a road game against a tough, AFC West foe is a good place to start.

Prior to kickoff, here are six things you should keep an eye on.

1. How do the Raiders respond?

Last week, for the first time in 2017, the Silver and Black stomached the sour taste of defeat after falling to the Redskins 27-10 at FedExField.

Now that the Week 3 contest is behind them, and the team's focus is squarely on the big test they have on deck, traveling to the Mile High City and taking on a very good Denver Broncos squad.

Losses are a part of the game, but how a team responds to those losses shows the true merit of a team.

The Silver and Black didn't lose back-to-back games in 2016, let's see if they can respond in a similar way this year.

2. Will Sunday be a big day for Michael Crabtree?

The Raiders wrapped up the 2016 regular season against the Broncos in January, and while Crabtree did lead the team's receivers with five catches for 47 yards, that game likely sticks out to him for a different reason.

In the first quarter of the game – which the Silver and Black eventually lost 24-6 – Broncos cornerback Aqib Tailb appeared to snatch the golden chain off "King Crab's" neck, understandably eliciting a reaction from No. 15.

Crabtree had some choice words about the incident following the game, and Sunday will be the first time that the two go toe-to-toe for the first time since then.

While the game will be won between the hash marks, watching Crabtree and Talib square off throughout the night will be a fun matchup to watch.

3. Same faces, new places

The Raiders and Broncos play each other twice a year, so there's understandably a sense of familiarity between the two teams, but that familiarity will only be exacerbated this weekend with all the connections between the squads.

Head Coach Jack Del Rio served as the defensive coordinator for the Broncos prior to returning home to Coach the Raiders, the Broncos current defensive coordinator Joe Woods served as the defensive backs coach for the Silver and Black in 2014, and Bill Musgrave – the man tasked with molding Trevor Siemian – was the Raiders offensive coordinator just a year ago.

Not only that, but Menelik Watson – who spent the first three years of his career with the Raiders – is now the Broncos right tackle.

As you can see, there's a lot of crossover between the AFC West foes, and it'll be interesting to see these same faces in new places come Sunday afternoon.

4. Mack vs. Miller

You likely won't find a better matchup between edge rushers than Sunday's clash between Khalil Mack and Von Miller.

Mack, as we all know, is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and with three First-Team All-Pro nods under his belt, Miller is also one of the best defensive players in the league.

While the two premier edge defenders obviously won't go against each other Sunday at Sports Authority Field, watching the pair go toe-to-toe will be endlessly entertaining.

Who will have a better outing, No. 52 or No. 58? Only time will tell.

5. How does the offensive line respond?

The Raiders have one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, but last week's game was an uncharacteristic one for the big fellas up front.

When all was said and done, the group had allowed four sacks, which – to put in perspective – hadn't occurred since 2015.

Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice's group will no doubt have their hands full Sunday afternoon trying to slow down Von Miller and friends, but if they can, it'll go a long ways in helping secure a road win for the Silver and Black.

As Head Coach Del Rio likes to say, it all begins with the big men up front.

6. Will Raider Nation show up in the Mile High City?

Truth be told, I knew the answer to this question before I even asked it.

Raider Nation travels well, regardless of the location, but for a big time, divisional game against a historic rival? You better believe they'll be in the house for that.

A key to victory on the road is taking the crowd out of the game, and as much as Carr and the Raiders can control that, a strong showing from Raider Nation can help out a lot in that regard too.

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