I’m starting to think Denver might be the “coast” of the inland west. People get too over their skis (didja get it?) when a young QB has a good game for the Broncos.
It’s only supposed to happen in places like New York. Sam Darnold had 1 or 2 decent games for the J – E – T – S early in the 2019 season, causing local pundits and offshore betting boards to go crazy. It wasn’t long before the former USC star crashed down to Earth along with the rest of the Jets.
Drew Lock had a pretty solid outing in a 27-17 win over the Detroit Lions last weekend, and the Broncos will relish the role of spoiler against a still-contending Oakland team in Week 17. But a point spread of (-3.5) on the 6-win Mile High hosts may be unrealistic considering the circumstances.
Who: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos
When: Sunday, December 29th, 4:25 PM EST
Where: Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Lines: OAK (+3.5) at DEN (-3.5) / O/U Total: (41)
The Silver & Black is a (+150) moneyline underdog as the only club which can conceivably walk out of Mile High on Sunday with a playoff bid. That’s curious.
Not that Oakland’s bid isn’t the longest of long shots. Gruden’s gang would have to win (of course) while the Titans, Steelers, and Jaguars (don’t ask) lose their games. It’s like a Sunday “parlay” that the Raiders are hoping to hit the jackpot on.
The Bronco fan base will be obsessed with the prospect of finishing-off a hated AFC West rival. But the Broncos are simply a ghost team right now, unsettled at QB and a cast in-audition at several key spots. Lock had a better day against the Detroit Lions last week because all conditions sat well for him against a team his OL could block.
Has Denver conquered a club that was going anywhere in 2019-20? You can count a 16-0 win over Tennessee back in October, but namely the Broncos’ solid reputation in Las Vegas is based on a single 38-24 win for the Broncos over the Texans on the road a few weeks ago.
The rookie out of Mizzou was excellent in that contest, only throwing 5 incompletions while the Broncos harassed and intercepted Deshaun Watson. But the underdogs caught Houston by surprise on 12/8, with Denver scoring most of its points in the 1st half before the Texans could regroup. Kansas City took Denver seriously the following week and embarrassed the Broncos on all 3 units.
Meanwhile, the Raiders and Broncos are a pair of banged-up football teams. The complete, collective injury list for the game at Mile High numbers close to 40 players.
Silver and Black Pride argues that Oakland hasn’t suffered catastrophic injuries, but rather than injury has taken a psychological toll on a club with a small margin for error:
The Raiders are nearly smack dab in the middle of the league in man games lost to injured players in 2019. Standing out in that graph is the fact the NFC West leading Seattle Seahawks have the second most man games lost in the entire league, only one game shy of the Washington Redskins. And the New England Patriots come in with the fifth most. Aside from those two teams, it is mostly mediocre or worse teams that inhabit the top half of the league, though Kansas City has overcome its fair share of man games missed.
Gruden says rookie running back Josh Jacobs can become a more influential player in the pass game in 2020 once he is back to full health. “I think he has 20 catches right now. When he got hurt, I think it was the first play of the game against Green Bay, obviously his practice routine changed. And his role, although he was still carrying the ball quite a bit, his role changed a tad.” It led to something of a domino effect, as the Raiders had to bring in Rod Smith as a fourth running back, once it became clear Jacobs was not fully healthy in the latter half of the season.
It’s not ideal, but most every team in the NFL deals with it at one position or another. What might be different is that whereas the Vikings’ injuries seem to have hit hardest in their receiving corps, the Raiders’ really are spread throughout the entire roster.
As for the Broncos’ injuries, I’d like to think a fresher version of Denver’s defense would have the O/U peeking down under 40 points for Sunday’s season-capper.
Derek Carr is perpetually underrated and overlooked, and he’ll step to the forefront this Sunday to out-gun the newcomer taking snaps for the home team. However, I’m foreseeing enough penalties, turnovers, and dramatic shifts of momentum that point-spread betting is probably not great for the nerves.
I’m liking a simple ML pick on Oakland instead at 1.5-to-1, or try the Under (41) for a scrum that’ll feel as cold as any in Week 17.