Raiders hope to break prime-time jinx

Hue Jackson was named coach of the Oakland Raiders in the offseason after spending his first year with the team in 2010 directing a surprising offense that proved to be one of the most prolific in the league.

Of course, some of that had to do with two games against the Denver Broncos’ woeful defense.

In their first return to the site of the highest-scoring game in franchise history, Jackson’s Raiders hope their offense can pick up where it left off a year ago in Monday night’s season opener against the rival Broncos, who are hoping for significant defensive improvements under new coach John Fox.

Most sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product have the Broncos 3 1/2-point home favorites, with the total set at 40 1/2.

Oakland is coming off an 8-8 finish in 2010, ending seven straight years of at least 11 losses. The Raiders were the lone NFL team to finish 6-0 within their division, but it wasn’t enough to save Tom Cable’s job, and Jackson was named coach in January.

“I expect to win here,” Jackson said. “And 8-8 doesn’t cut it for me. I’m not interested in being 8-8. I’m interested in being great.”

With Jackson as coordinator last season, the offense flourished. Oakland vaulted from 31st in the league with 197 points in 2009 to sixth with 410 points, with 98 of those coming in two wins over the Broncos.

In Denver on Oct. 24, the Raiders trounced the Broncos 59-14. They led 21-0 before Denver ran a play that didn’t result in a turnover and took a 38-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

The humiliating defeat still haunts the Broncos.

“It was just terrible,” Denver middle linebacker Joe Mays recalled. “It’s one of those things where you want to forget it, but it’s still in the back of your head.”

Oakland’s Darren McFadden, who rushed for a career-best 1,157 yards last year, ran for 165 yards and scored four touchdowns in Denver, while the offense racked up 508 yards.

The Raiders hardly let up in the rematch in Oakland on Dec. 19, compiling 502 yards in a 39-23 victory. McFadden ran for 119 yards on 20 carries and Jason Campbell passed for 238 yards.

“The veterans on the team talk about how they killed us last year,” Denver rookie pass-rusher Von Miller said. “But this is a new year, we’ve got a new coach, new players and hopefully it’ll be different this year.”

The Broncos have reason to believe things can improve from 2010, when they were 4-12 – a franchise worst for a 16-game season.

Most of Denver’s problems stemmed from a defense that was last in the league in total yards (400.6 per game) and scoring (29.4). It also had an NFL-low 23 sacks and finished with the second-fewest interceptions at 10.

Under Fox and new coordinator Dennis Allen, who is ditching former coach Josh McDaniels’ 3-4 scheme for the traditional 4-3, the Broncos are feeling optimistic defensively because of the health of Elvis Dumervil and the arrival of Miller.

Dumervil led the league with 17 sacks in 2009, but missed all of last season with a torn chest muscle. He should benefit from lining up opposite Miller, who was the second overall selection in the draft after collecting 27 1/2 sacks in his last two seasons at Texas A&M.

“Obviously we thought a lot of Von Miller to draft him in that spot and getting Elvis back is huge, both in the locker room as well as on the field,” Fox said. “So, they’re a pretty good little tandem.”

Fox named Kyle Orton the starting quarterback after he was rumored to be traded in July.

Orton passed for 3,653 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions in his second season with the Broncos last year. His favorite target, Brandon Lloyd, led the NFL with a career-best 1,448 receiving yards.

“I feel good because Kyle Orton is our quarterback, and he’s as good as they come,” said teammate Champ Bailey, a 10-time Pro Bowl cornerback. “He doesn’t get the respect that he deserves.”

Orton has passed for 633 yards with four TDs and a pick in three games against the Raiders, but the Broncos have lost twice.

Denver has lost three straight home games to Oakland for the first time since dropping four in a row from 1974-77, but could have an edge under the lights.

The Raiders have lost 11 straight prime-time games since Nov. 28, 2004, when they defeated the Broncos 25-54 on a Sunday night in Denver.

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