This used to be one of the nastiest rivalries in the NFL, where pushing, shoving and personal fouls were the norm and every official assigned to this joust knew it was going to be a long three hours. But recently it has been one-sided, with Denver taking the past four meetings by an average of 18.5 points a game. Does anything change this time around and what do those making NFL picks think about giving or taking double digits in the contest? Let’s look deeper into this matchup.
Denver Needs Victory, But is it really in Doubt?
The Broncos had a harder time than expected against Houston for three quarters, leading only 16-13 as 10-point favorites. Once the fourth quarter arrived, both teams reverted to normal and Denver whipped the Texans 21-0 and won and covered, outgaining them by 271 yards.
Coach John Fox’s team has to come up with one more victory to secure home field advantage throughout the AFC postseason, which would assure NFL football handicappers the betting odds will be stacked in Denver’s favor if not the outcomes.
Denver comes to the contest with several edges besides just how the teams are playing.
The Broncos top scoring offense is averaging 38.1 points a contest, with Peyton Manning at the controls. Manning has missed Wes Welker in the slot but Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are exceptional deep threats and with Manning’s accuracy, they catch the ball on the move and can turn short gains in big plays. This is why Denver is tied for 1st with Philadelphia in the NFL in yards per attempt at 8.1.
The last time these teams met back in September, Manning had 372 net passing yards and it was relatively easy for Denver to move the ball. The Raiders pass defense has not improved and is ranked 28th in yards per attempt allowed at 7.4.
Add the explosive Knowshon Moreno running the ball and how will Oakland stop or even contain the sensational Denver offense?
Oakland Losses and Distractions Adding Up
Expectations were not high for the Raiders coming into 2013, being burdened with salary cap issues with players no longer on the roster. What the Oakland ownership and front office people were seeking was general improvement and effort from a roster lean on talent.
The NFL odds were stacked against head coach Dennis Allen after a 4-12 season in 2012, nonetheless in the first part of the season, Oakland was regularly competitive and what they lacked in ability they made up for in effort and were 3-4 after knocking off Pittsburgh 21-18.
Since that juncture of the season, the Raiders have regressed, with their only victory against Houston and they have lost five in row (1-4 ATS) by an average of 11.8 points a game.
Staring at another 4-12 campaign and at this point no visible improvement, speculation has begun in earnest if Allen is the right coach to turn this franchise around and he’s brought enough on himself with questionable decision-making like sticking with Matt McGloin as quarterback, when Terrelle Pryor was healthy and changing gears by starting Pryor this week.
Al Davis’s “Commitment to Excellence” no longer is attributable to the Black and Silver.
NFL Betting Odds and Matchup Numbers
Denver opened as 10.5-point favorite at most sportsbooks and has been upgraded to -12.5 and it is impossible to ignore their 19-7 ATS record as a favorite, winning by 13.8 points a game. It is almost noteworthy Oakland is 0-7 ATS in home games after allowing 25 points or more in three straight contests.
The total opened at 53.5 and about half the sportsbooks checked have remained the same with the rest at 54. The Broncos are 10-2 OVER after gaining 400 or more total yards in their previous game this season.
What to Watch For
Denver knows it can throw the ball in this matchup, so look for coach Fox to want to run the ball more to have the run game in the best shape possible for the playoffs.
Also, with Von Miller gone for the season with an injury, this could be a good time to start working on creative blitzes to supplant what Miller would have ordinarily brought on his own.
Pryor is placed in a rather difficult position to perform, but he’s at his best when he can be a threat to run or pass and the Broncos true intensity level is a question mark.
After being a strength early in the season, the run defense has taken a step backward and surrendering 125.4 yards a game during the losing streak and the last thing Manning needs from the Oakland viewpoint is a run or pass option all day.
This will not be my prime choice play with NFL sports picks, but similar to last week, Denver does what is needed and covers the number on the road.
NFL Football Free Pick - Denver -12.5