Denver Broncos (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Oakland Raiders (3-9 SU, 3-9 ATS)
NFL Week 14
Date/Time: Thursday, December 6th, 2012, 8:20 p.m. EST
Where: O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
TV: NFL Network/DirecTV 212
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Den. -10.5/Oak. +10.5
Over/Under Total: 49.5
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Even though the Oakland Raiders have only three wins and are nowhere near the same type of team they were during the “Just Win Baby” days of old, don’t think for a second that when Peyton Manning and the hated Denver Broncos come calling to O.co Coliseum on Thursday Night Football that one of the best AFC West rivalries won’t be renewed in primetime on the NFL Network.
The Raiders have lost five games in a row to fall completely off the map in the AFC West, and to make matters worse three of those five losses have come at home including last week’s dud versus the Cleveland Browns, 20-17. Don’t be fooled by the close score, the Raiders added a late touchdown with one second to play to put lipstick on that pig, and with nothing really left to play for don’t be surprised if the Raiders take every opportunity to knock Manning around and spoil the Broncos chances at a deep AFC playoff run.
Denver will be attempting a strong playoff run because they clinched the AFC West title last week with their, 31-23, victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Broncos scored 24 points in the second half to pull away from the Bucs and notch their eighth win in a row, and with an outside chance at homefield throughout the AFC playoffs still lingering in the final four weeks, there’s nothing that’s stopping them from kicking dirt in the face of the Raiders while they’re down in front of everyone on Thursday Night.
You know things are bad when you’re a double-digit underdog in your own house, but that’s exactly what the Raiders will be since oddsmakers opened the game with Denver as 10.5-point favorites in the “Black Hole.” After 24 hours of being live the number hasn’t moved at most sportsbooks, but it’s gone up to minus -11 or even -12 (Sportbet) at a few offshore sportsbooks, which is like salt on the wound as far as Raiders fans are concerned.
The over/under total opened at 51 and within hours dropped quickly to 50 and then 49.5, where it currently sits at most books.
Offensively these two teams are fairly even, yardage-wise, when you look at the statistics. Both Manning and Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer have thrown for over 3,500 yards and average about the same in passing yards per game (Den. 284 ypg - 7th; Oak. 280 ypg - 8th). Denver over the course of the season has run the ball more effectively (103 ypg; Oak. 83 ypg), but since the Broncos lost running back Willis McGahee to injury they have struggled to replace him and those numbers are starting to drop.
But even though those yardage numbers are comparable, the Broncos average of 29.1 points per game is 3rd-best in the NFL and over 10 points a game better than the Raiders average of 19.6, which means the Broncos and Manning create more big plays and don’t shoot themselves in the foot. That has led to the six-game difference in the win column and is why the Broncos have already been crowned AFC West champs, while the Raiders are talking about seeing what backup QB Terrelle Pryor can do in the these last four games of the season.
But more than veteran leadership at QB and big plays on offense, the other HUGE difference between these two teams is defense. Denver is top-10 across the board, has the league’s top sack man in Von Miller (15), and can stop the run (96 ypg - 7th) as well as the pass (212 - 6th) and keep teams off the board. Oakland is the NFL worst in scoring defense, allowing 31.3 points per game, and when you allow over 30 points per game in the NFL you’re doomed for failure.
The 31 points the Raiders allow on defense is the exact margin of victory the Broncos had over the Raiders earlier this season in their first meeting in Denver, as Denver won 37-6 in a game that the Broncos ran up over 500 yards of offense and scored 27 points in the second half to turn it into a rout.
Even though the Broncos have won two in a row against the Raiders, it wasn’t that long ago when the sides were flipped and the Raiders owned this rivalry. Oakland won four straight (from 2009 to 2011) and six of the last 10, so they certainly can beat the Broncos.
Oakland is also 9-4 ATS going back through the last 13 head-to-head meetings (11-5 ATS in L16 vs. AFC West), so even though they look hopeless on the field they have been a solid wager at the window over the years.
The over might be the best wager on the board this Thursday, not only because the Raiders defense is a sieve, but also because the over is 5-1 in the last six head-to-head meetings and is also 4-1 in the last five meetings played in Oakland. Those numbers run opposite of both teams history in the division, and on Thursday games, since both tend to play under in the AFC West (under is 5-2 in Denver’s L7 vs. AFC West; 5-1 in Oakland’s L6 vs. AFC West) and under when they play on short rest (under 4-1 in Denver’s L5 on Thurs.; 3-1-1 in Oakland’s L5 on Thurs.).
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I like the Raiders as huge home dogs in this situation. It’s a rivalry game, plus the Broncos have already clinched so even though they’ll claim their still trying to win them all, it’s only natural for them to let off the pedal a little. I’m not sure how they’ll do it, but Oakland should keep it close, especially is the number keeps climbing to -11.5 or -12. Take Oakland plus the points.
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