Denver Broncos (4-0) at Oakland Raiders (2-2)
The Broncos are one of six remaining undefeated teams, but haven’t been as dominant as they typically have been in the Peyton Manning era. Their matchups with Baltimore, Kansas City, and Minnesota all could have gone a different way, while their 24-12 win in Detroit wasn’t that much less of a nail biter. They rank just 11th in rate of moving the chains differential, dominating on defense, ranking 4th in rate of moving the chains allowed, but their offense has not been very good at all, ranking 24th in rate of moving the chains. Peyton Manning’s age is definitely showing in his age 39 season and their offensive line and running back play have been awful. They’re still a top team in the AFC because they have one of the most talented teams in the league and are coached by legendary defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, but this is probably overall the worst Denver team in the Peyton Manning era.
The Raiders, meanwhile, are not as bad as they usually are and rank 18th in rate of moving the chains differential. I don’t think they’re a real playoff contender or anything, as evidenced by their loss in Chicago last week and their week 1 blowout loss at home against the Bengals, but they’re definitely going to be tougher for the Broncos than they usually are. That being said, the Broncos should still be the right side here as 5 point road favorites in Oakland.
The Broncos are in a good spot because they’re projected to be big road favorites again next week in Cleveland. The early line has them favored by 5.5 points. Teams are 101-74 ATS since 2012 before being 3+ point road favorites, 64-44 ATS before being 4+ point road favorites, and 41-26 ATS before being 6+ point road favorites. That’s because when you have a game coming up like that it generally means one of two things. One, you’re about to play an easy opponent, so you don’t have any real upcoming distractions. Two, you’re a really good football team. In this scenario, it’s a little bit of both. The Raiders don’t have any upcoming distractions either, heading into a bye, but usually not having an upcoming distraction benefits the better team more than the underdog. I’m not confident in the Broncos or anything, but they’re my pick.
Denver Broncos 20 Oakland Raiders 13
Pick against the spread: Denver -5