Oakland Raiders (1-2) at Denver Broncos (1-2)
I thought the Raiders were overrated coming into the season and now they’re even more overrated coming off a “surprising” win over the Steelers. Their upset win over the Steelers was not completely shocking given how much the Steelers have sucked over the last year plus on the road. They are -43 on the road in that time period, including playoffs, and +137 at home. They beat Indianapolis by just 3, Kansas City by just 4, and Cleveland by just 3 last year.
Given that they were missing James Harrison and Troy Polamalu last weekend, this upset was not shocking. There’s a reason I made it a very small pick even though Pittsburgh had the clear on paper advantage. The Raiders are one of 15 1-2 teams in the NFL right now. Some of them are going to make the playoffs, some of them are going to be terrible. I think this team is one of the latter. Remember, they lost 35-13 to the Dolphins just 2 weeks ago.
Their defense has been exactly as you’d expect from a defense that ranked 29th in scoring last year and then who lost their top cornerback and top pass rusher this offseason. Injuries have hammered them on that side of the ball too as linebacker Aaron Curry is expected to miss the entire season, while top cornerback Ronald Bartell will miss at least 6 weeks after being put on non-season ending IR.
Shawntae Spencer, another starting cornerback, could also miss this game. Spencer isn’t very good, but he was a starter at a very thin position to begin with. After failing to return everyone at the position who played a single snap for them in 2011, the Raiders have lost their top two cornerbacks with injury and will likely start Patrick Lee and Phillip Adams in this one. Meanwhile, defensive tackles Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly are showing their age. They allowed 36 catches on 49 attempts for 384 yards and 4 touchdowns to Ben Roethlisberger and 433 total yards even in a winning effort last week. Yeah, good luck containing Peyton Manning.
The Raiders’ offense has been better and they were able to keep up with the Steelers last week, but I don’t expect that they’ll be able to do that this week. If they allow 31 points this week, they’ll probably lose easily. The Steelers’ defensive effort was pitiful last weekend on the road, missing James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. The Broncos have been one of the better defensive teams in the league this season and the Raiders will be without Darrius Heyward-Bey, so they’ll really only have one reliable receiver, Denarius Moore. Champ Bailey should be able to shut him down.
While the Raiders are a little overrated, the Broncos are a little underrated. Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Houston, talk about being welcomed back to the NFL harshly for Peyton Manning. The Broncos stand at 1-2, but they rank 9th in yards per play differential and they’ve been competitive in all 3 games despite a tough schedule. They should still be very tough to beat at home with their no huddle in the high altitude, despite a loss to a Houston team that might be the best in the league, and make the playoffs propelled by a 6-2 or 7-1 home record.
With a much, much easier matchup and in his 4th game back, Peyton Manning should be able to have by far his best game, and he hasn’t been terrible at all considering the matchups, completing 60.0% of his passes for 7.2 YPA and 5 touchdowns to 3 interceptions. I just don’t see any way this patchwork Raiders defense has any chance of stopping Manning and his no huddle offense in the high altitude. The Broncos should get into the 30s again and I don’t trust the Raiders to keep up. Despite 34 points last week, they average just 20.3 points play game.
One trend works against the Broncos, favorites off a loss as a dog before being dogs are 51-77 ATS since 2008. Teams tend to see those games as a breather and be flat, but this is a divisional game so it’s less likely they’ll be flat (11-16 ATS in that situation in a divisional game between two non-divisional games). Besides, at 1-2, this is a really important game for them.
Public lean: Denver (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Oakland covers)
Sharps lean (sharps is defined as anyone with a 66.7% winning percentage or higher in Las Vegas Hilton): OAK 4 DEN 7
Denver Broncos 31 Oakland Raiders 17
Pick against spread: Denver -7 (-110) 3 units