Las Vegas Raiders (3-2) at Denver Broncos (3-2)
In a normal situation, I would like the Raiders a lot this week, as 4-point underdogs in Denver. The Broncos got out to an 3-0 start, beating an easy schedule, but also winning by an average of 16.7 points. However, they have lost a lot of players to injury as the season has gone on and haven’t been the same team in back-to-back losses to the Ravens and Steelers. Most notably, wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, edge defender Bradley Chubb, and inside linebacker Josey Jewell have all gone down since the start of the season.
The Raiders have also lost back-to-back games since a 3-0 start, but they don’t have as many key players missing due to injury and have the slight edge in my roster rankings overall, despite this line suggesting that the Broncos are the better of the two teams. The Broncos are also in a tough spot as they have to turn around and play a tougher game on a short week next week and favorites cover at just a 41.9% rate all-time before Thursday Night Football.
However, this is not a normal situation, with Raiders head coach Jon Gruden resigning mid-week. This is not the first time a team has gone to an interim head coach mid-season, but this is really an unprecedented situation. Some teams find success after going to an interim head coach mid-season, but that typically happens when the previous head coach was ineffective and/or disliked, which was not the case for Jon Gruden up until the revelations of the past week made him incapable of leading this locker room.
Gruden was just 22-31 with the Raiders, but usually got the most out of an underwhelming roster and most notably led the Raiders to a 17-10 record in one score games. Gruden’s roster management decisions have been questionable at best, but the Raiders undoubtedly have a worse head coaching situation now than they did a couple weeks ago. We may see a better effort from the Raiders this week than they had last week against the Bears, when the Gruden situation was likely a distraction, but I don’t want to bet on it, even if we are getting good line value. The Raiders are the pick for pick ‘em purposes, but aren’t bettable given the uncertainty over how they will respond.
Denver Broncos 19 Las Vegas Raiders 17
Pick against the spread: Las Vegas +4