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PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 10: Teddy Bridgewater #5 of the Denver Broncos looks to pass during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 10, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Joe Sargent/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Joe Sargent / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

With Jon Gruden gone, the Las Vegas Raiders shouldn’t be in your NFL picks this Sunday when they visit the Denver Broncos.

Las Vegas Raiders vs. Denver Broncos

Sunday, October 17, 2021 - 04:25 PM EDT at Empower Field at Mile High

It’s never easy on an NFL team when the head coach gets fired in the middle of the season. But there are all sorts of weird stuff going on with Jon Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders. Shocked, shocked the pundits are, at the e-mails that led Gruden to hand in his resignation Monday night.

The Raiders (3-2 SU, 2-3 ATS) became legitimate playoff contenders during his tenure. How will this affect their title hopes, let alone Sunday’s AFC West matchup with the Denver Broncos (3-2 SU and ATS)? Not at all, apparently.

The Raiders were 3.5-point road dogs on the NFL lines before ESPN broke the news on Monday Night Football; the oddsmakers eventually took that line down, gave it some due consideration – and put it right back up at Raiders +3.5. Very interesting indeed.

This may have been a tight line before Gruden and the Raiders parted ways, but now that he’s gone, of course, I’m recommending the Broncos for your Week 6 NFL picks.

That’s Rich

Even if Gruden had gotten the ax for sheer incompetence, we’d be leaning towards the other side. Walter Cherepinsky ran the numbers at his WalterFootball site and found that teams are 11-15 ATS since 1996 in their first game after changing coaches mid-stream.

It’s not just about replacing one football mind with another – there are new routines to establish, and that’s hard to do on the fly. Which is the whole point of interim coaches, of course.

Rich Bisaccia will patrol the Vegas sideline this Sunday, and he’ll no doubt stick with the game plans he helped Gruden produce as his assistant head coach (and special teams co-coordinator). This is still a new gig for Bisaccia, though, and his first at this level since he got into coaching back in 1983 at Wayne State College. Mistakes will be made.


Gruden or no Gruden, we might have recommended the Broncos anyway when they opened as –3.5 home faves. It would have been the slightest of leans, though; FiveThirtyEight like Denver to win by four points, and Jeff Sagarin at The USA Today says Denver –2.57.

Having Teddy Bridgewater back under center (and hopefully non-concussed) gives the Broncos some added value, but really, it’s the coaching change in Las Vegas that’s moving us off the fence.

If only the weather gods would help us, too. Sunday’s long-range forecast calls for sunny skies over Mile High and temperatures in the mid-70s. Where the heck is all the snow? It says here that Denver’s average window for measurable snow starts October 17.

Having to play in those conditions would have shot the Raiders Misery Index out into space. Oh well. Make it a small bet on the Broncos instead, and may the prolate spheroid be with you.

NFL Pick: Broncos –3.5 (–110)

*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.