Oakland Raiders (0-1) at Denver Broncos (1-0)
Two years ago, the Raiders, after a decade plus of being terrible, finally broke through and made the post-season with a record of 12-4, but they lost Derek Carr late in the season with a broken leg and were quickly eliminated in the post-season. In 2017, the things that went in Oakland’s favor like record in close games and turnover margin flipped the other direction, as they went from 8-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less to 4-3 and from a +16 turnover margin to a -14 turnover margin.
The Raiders could have been poised for a bounce back season in 2018, but they did not have a good off-season and then decided to trade their best player a week before the season started, sending Khalil Mack to the Bears for a pair of first round picks (among other picks). If the Raiders can hit on those draft picks and get a couple young talented players on rookie deals, it might be better for them in the long-run than paying Mack a top of the market contract, but there’s a lot of uncertainty in there and without Mack the Raiders have one of the least talented defenses in the league.
The offense didn’t look much better in the opener, a 33-13 home loss to the Rams on Monday Night Football. They looked alright in the first half, but that’s because the Rams didn’t have any tape of them to watch. In the second half, they struggled mightily. Since his strong 2016 season, Derek Carr has been incredibly average at best and is coming off arguably the worst game of his career against the Rams. Part of the reason why the Raiders didn’t want to pay Mack at the top of the market is because they already gave a huge contract to Derek Carr, but in hindsight the Raiders might be better off with Mack signed long-term and a different cheaper quarterback under center.
This week, the Raiders go on the road on a short week to Denver, where the Broncos are coming off of solid win over the Seahawks. While the Raiders had the 5th worst first down rate differential week 1 at -8.85%, the Broncos had the 4th best at +9.80%. With improved quarterback play, the Broncos are a potential playoff team in the AFC and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them win the AFC West. I liked this line better earlier in the week when it was 5.5, but the Broncos are still worth a bet as long as this line is under a touchdown, because the Broncos have a good chance to win by double digits.
Denver Broncos 24 Oakland Raiders 12
Pick against the spread: Denver -6.5