NCAA

Gap widens between Broncos, Raiders

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Gap widens between Broncos, Raiders

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Just a year ago, Denver and Oakland went to the end of the season in the race for the AFC West title, with the Broncos edging the Raiders for first place on the final day by winning a three-team tiebreaker with San Diego.

Now the teams couldn't be further apart.

The Broncos (9-3) are riding a seven-game winning streak into Thursday night's game in Oakland having already wrapped up the division title. They are spending the last month worried about playoff positioning and staying healthy for the postseason.

The Raiders (3-9) have lost five straight and have been eliminated from playoff contention for a 10th straight season as the franchise has regressed in the first year of the new regime led by general manager Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen.

``It's definitely disappointing. Coming into the season, we had a new GM, had a new coaching staff and it felt like the sky was the limit, but for some reason - obviously, we had a lot of injuries - but for some reason, we haven't been on the same page the whole season,'' defensive back Michael Huff said. ``The defense has had their struggles, the offense has their struggles at times, special teams had their struggles at time. It's like we haven't just put that complete game together yet. We're just trying to figure it out and find that perfect game.''

The Broncos figured it out quickly after going 8-8 last year in their first season under front office boss John Elway and coach John Fox. The biggest change came when they acquired quarterback Peyton Manning to replace pedestrian passer Tim Tebow.

But nearly 20 other players acquired since Elway took over the football operations have started games this season, including standout defensive star Von Miller, who has 26 1/2 sacks in less than two seasons.

``It's been a lot of hard work by a lot of people whether it's personnel department, the coaching staff, the players in the locker room,'' Fox said. ``As far as the offseason I know a lot was made of Peyton Manning but we had a lot of other guys that have been big contributors to this football team as well. But, you know, anything worth a darn takes time to build and so we just in year two of that process.''

The acquisition accelerated it. He has come back from a neck injury that sidelined him all last season to set a Denver record with 29 touchdown passes.

The addition of a dangerous passing game to complement a strong defense led by pass rushers Miller and Elvis Dumervil and a solid running game have made the Broncos legitimate contenders in the AFC.

They clinched the division last week and are tied with New England and Baltimore for second place in the conference and a first-round playoff bye.

``I think our team realizes what a unique opportunity we have and we are trying to take advantage of it,'' Manning said. ``Those are the kind of guys you want to be around.''

It might be natural for the Broncos to overlook the struggling Raiders team that hasn't led a game at any point the past four weeks, especially with a potentially key playoff positioning game the following week in Baltimore.

But with big-play running back Darren McFadden expected to return and the intensity of a division rivalry, Fox has preached all week to his players to avoid that trap.

``You can't look at their record; you've got to look at their film,'' safety Rahim Moore said. ``They have big-time playmakers. They have speed all over the field, a great running back in Darren McFadden. ... Even though this is a team that's shuffling on paper, that doesn't mean they can't make plays. Just because we've been winning doesn't mean they're going to give us a victory. They're going to come play us hard. It's the NFL. Don't ever take anybody lightly in anything you do.''

The Raiders will be playing the game with heavy hearts. Allen, the defensive coordinator in Denver last season, has been away from the team all week because the death of his father, Grady.

The players have talked about rallying behind their coach this week. They are searching for any kind of motivation after all their real goals disappeared during the five-game losing streak.

``You just play for pride,'' Huff said. ``We don't want to go out there and get embarrassed Thursday night. Our family, friends, high school coaches, little league coaches, everybody will be watching us. If you don't want to not get embarrassed you shouldn't be playing this game.''

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AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Englewood, Colo., contributed to this report

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Former Maryland DL Mojo Rawley tells Mike Locksley how the Gronkowski brothers got him into WWE

Former Maryland DL Mojo Rawley tells Mike Locksley how the Gronkowski brothers got him into WWE

With Wrestlemania 36 underway this weekend, Maryland football coach Mike Locksley sat down on Instagram Live with former Terps defensive lineman and current WWE superstar Mojo Rawley to talk about his new career path. 

Rawley's real name is Dean Muhtadi, and he played for the Terps in for two years as a Division III transfer. He finished third on team in sacks that season and despite going undrafted in 2009, found his way to an NFL camp with the Packers. 

Muhtadi spent 2009 with Green Bay and 2010 with the Cardinals before suffering an injury that landed him on injured reserve. It was then where Muhtadi found a new career path thanks to two of his best friends. 

"Dan Gronkowski and Chris Gronkowski played with me at Maryland, two of my closest friends," Rawley said on "Late Night With Locks". "Their dad was one of our coach's roommates in the WWE, so it seemed like a natural fit. We were watching together, and I kinda made a comment like, 'this would be awesome if I could be one of [the wrestlers]. Mr. Gronk made the call and the rest was history."

Rawley has been a WWE superstar and currently stands as Rob Gronkowski's hype man. The former Patriots tight end is WWE's most recent signee and is Wrestlemania 36's host.

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The Rock's cheat day, what the Watt brothers are up to, Marcus Stroman get his reps in

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First up in Saturday's round-up of the best sports moments on the internet, everyone is trying to stick to as normal of a routine as they can while at home. Quarantine wasn’t going to keep Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” away from his “cheat day”. Have you ever seen french toast this big in your life? 


Next up, the Watt brothers have been staying in shape working out together and they even have a football field coming soon. Check out JJ Watt painting the lines. He says he has a new respect for groundskeepers now. The stage is set for the Watt brothers!


Finally, no bullpen, no problem! Mets starting pitcher Marcus Stroman sets up a makeshift bullpen on his boat dock and it even has a mound. Now that is a beautiful place to get your reps in! 

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