Consensus line: Broncos -10/-10.5, total 48.5
Current betting percentage: 74% on the Broncos, 56% on the OVER

Individual Team Trends:

  • Raiders are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 against AFC West opponents.
  • Raiders are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
  • Raiders are 22-45-1 ATS in their last 68 home games.
  • Over is 4-1 in Broncos last 5 road games.
  • Over is 35-16 in Broncos last 51 games overall.
  • Under is 5-1 in Raiders last 6 against AFC West opponents.
  • Over is 7-3 in Raiders last 10 home games.

Head-to-Head Trends:

  • Over is 4-1 in the last 5 meetings in Oakland.
  • Over is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings.
  • Broncos are 4-9 ATS in the last 13 meetings.
  • Road team is 7-2 ATS in their last 9 meetings.

After being treated to a quality NFC South Thursday Nighter between the Saints and Falcons last week, we’re back to the norm when the Broncos pay a visit to Oakland to “battle” the Raiders tonight. The NFL should really consider instituting a rule that prohibits AFC West matchups in primetime. They’re awful. But luckily for everyone reading this blog, we’re blessed with the ability to wager on games as terrible as this one.

You rarely see teams favored by double digits on the road, especially in a divisional matchup. But that hasn’t deterred oddsmakers from installing the Broncos as 10.5-point favorites. It’s hard to argue with that number with the way that Oakland has played as of late.

The Raiders figure to struggle mightily against Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense. Oakland’s defense has given up an average of 37.8 points per game over their last five games, three of which were at home. Not good. The main issue with the Raiders is that they’re weak against both the run and the pass, which is not ideal when facing the high-powered Denver offense.

Oakland catches a slight break with “No-Show” Moreno replacing Willis McGahee in Denver’s starting lineup, but they’re still likely to struggle defending the run. Moreno’s averaged a measly 3.5 yards per carry this season compared to McGahee’s 4.4 yards per carry, but Broncos’ head coach John Fox has the luxury of replacing Moreno with Ronnie Hillman or Lance Ball if he can’t get anything going on the ground. Oakland gives up 4.7 yards per carry and over 130 yards on the ground per game, so even No-Show should be able to get on track.

If the Raiders are somehow miraculously successful in defending the run, they’ll still have to deal with Peyton Manning. Manning’s quarterback rating sits at 104.6 right now, which is the second highest QBR of his career. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker figure to exploit whatever scrub cornerbacks Oakland decides to try to cover them with, so Manning should be able to hit his receivers with ease as long as he isn’t under duress. The Raiders rank second last in the league in sacks, registering only 14 in twelve games this season, so it would come as a shock if Oakland is able to generate any pressure against Denver’s strong offensive line.

Oakland’s personnel on the defensive side of the ball is embarrassing, but their effort on defense is even more embarrassing. Rolando McClain, a former first-round pick out of Alabama, was suspended for two games earlier this week for conduct detrimental to the team. If you’ve watched any Raiders’ games in the last month or so, it may have had something to do with McClain’s nonchalant attitude on the field (pure speculation). The Raiders take plays off far too frequently, but their coaching staff has tried to send a message with the suspension. It remains to be seen if it will have any impact.

The Raiders aren’t going to be able to rely on their defense to force any stops, so they’ll have to score some points if they want to keep this game respectable. Carson Palmer has been brutal (that’s an understatement) in recent weeks, but he should really benefit from the return of Darren McFadden at running back. McFadden hasn’t been limited in practice at all this week, so Oakland should have a completely healthy game-changer back in their lineup.

McFadden wasn’t very effective in the first nine weeks of the season, but there’s no doubt that the Raiders offense has stalled without Run DMC in the lineup. McFadden is the only player on the Oakland offense that opposing defenses really have to gameplan for, and his mere presence on the field opens up the Raiders passing game. Carson Palmer has thrown five interceptions with McFadden in the lineup this season, compared to eight interceptions without him. McFadden being in the backfield forces opposing defenses to respect the run, and it creates play-action opportunities down the field.

Palmer’s safety valve in recent weeks has been tight end Brandon Myers, and he’ll look to target him as much as possible in this contest. Myers caught 14 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown last week, and Denver has given up big yardage to opposing tight ends all season long. The Broncos don’t exactly boast a good group of cover linebackers, so this is one of the few matchups that Oakland should be able to exploit.

On the outside, Champ Bailey figures to shut down one of Oakland’s wideouts, and Chris Harris has played well in the absence of Tracy Porter, so he should be able to do enough to limit opportunities down the field as well. Palmer will have to get the ball out of his hands quickly to neutralize the Denver pass rush, but it will be difficult to do so against the Broncos’ cover corners. If McFadden can’t get on track in this contest and the Raiders are forced to pass the ball frequently, they’re doomed.

There is a huge psychological factor favoring the Raiders here though. The father of head coach Dennis Allen passed away on Monday Night, and you can be sure that Oakland will be inspired to win one for their head coach. Sometimes motivation outweighs talent, as evidenced by Kansas City’s win over the Panthers last week, or the Colts’ comeback victory over the Packers earlier this season. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver assumed responsibility for getting the Raiders ready for this game, and based on what I’ve seen out of Oakland over the past month, their preparation can’t possibly get any worse.

All in all, this could be a tough spot for Denver to cover a big number. They are more skilled at almost every position, but playing on the road on a short week is no easy task, even if it’s against the lowly Raiders. Home underdogs of eight or more points are 23-2 ATS (92%) over the last three seasons, so I’ll hold my nose and side with Oakland to keep it close.

Prediction: Broncos 31, Raiders 24

Recommendation: We saw the Broncos struggle in a very similar situation in Kansas City two weeks ago where they were installed as a double-digit road favorite. Denver won the game 17-9 and could have covered the spread if Matt Prater didn’t miss two field goals, but the team looked out of sorts. Denver isn’t looking to cover a spread here…they’re looking to win and get out of town. Raiders +11 (-110) @ SIA.

I also have a slight lean on the total. Oakland’s defense isn’t very good, and even if Peyton Manning struggles through some points in this game, the Broncos are good enough to put up four touchdowns. The opening total on this game was 51, but it was quickly bet down by some sharp action and some surprising public action (the public rarely bets unders). At 48.5, I think there’s a little bit of value on the over as well.

It’s hard to feel confident in the Raiders, but I’ll have a small wager on them tonight just out of principle. A 6.5-point teaser with the Raiders +17.5 and over 42 could also be worth a small play (if you’re into teasers).

Good luck! Let me know if you agree or disagree.