John: There are just four weeks left in this NFL season. The playoff races are shaping. Some teams like the Broncos, Patriots and Falcons have already clinched their division titles while the Texans have also clinched a playoff spot. Others are fighting for position.
One of those teams fighting for position are the Denver Broncos, who are in action tonight against the perpetually hapless (that's my way of saying they're bad) Oakland Raiders.
As always I'm joined by Bret Clev and Mike Maloney to break down tonight's game.
Standings after Week 13 (Straight Up)
John 127-64-1 .665 (Last week 11-5)
Mike 126-65-1 .665 (9-7)
Bret 126-65-1 .660 (13-3)
I jumped over Mike back into first place while Bret tied him up. It's a close race with four weeks left!
Denver (9-3) at Oakland (3-9) 8:20 PM
Bret: While Oakland has been downright non-competitive the last few weeks, this will not be a blow out. Here's why:
A Thursday night road team almost never blows out an opponent. With a short week, travelling, and Baltimore waiting on the other side - don't expect Denver to come out at top speed in this one. I expect them to use the game as a chance to get their young running backs involved in a game plan, work on some things offensively, and just do enough to win. In the last meeting, Denver only scored 17 until half way through the 3rd, then they poured it on - but that was when Denver was still working out their passing game. They've got that down pat, and they'll work to conserve now.
Furthermore, Darren McFadden - despite having an awful year - almost always has at least one great game against Denver. Don't be surprised if he has his 1st 100 yard game of the season in this one.
Still, Oakland turns the ball over too much, is too inconsistent in the passing game, and just downright untalented defensively to really compete in this one. Look for a score similar to what Denver did in KC - maybe add 10 points per team. Denver 27 Oakland 19
Mike: I know I'm not exactly offering up new news by saying Denver has an easy second half schedule, but man do they have an easy second half schedule. Tampa was their one tough game, and they got that at home and came out with a strong win. I'd have to think they're the favorites for the #2 seed in the AFC right now. They're tied with New England and Baltimore right now, and New England still has tough games against Houston and San Francisco. Obviously the big test will be the Denver/Baltimore game in a couple weeks, winner has the inside track to that #2 spot. But for this week, they get another warm up game against the Raiders.
Another week, another loss by the Raiders, congrats to them on helping Cleveland snap their 12-game road losing streak. I probably feel better about betting against them than just about any other team in the league at the moment. The only thing they have going for them is that this is a Thursday night game, so anything can happen, plus they're expecting Darren McFadden back. I don't think there is any chance that they win this game. I'm just saying all of those factors plus it being a divisional road game for the Broncos, 10.5 points is a lot to cover.
Denver's offense should be in for a very nice game, and given how Oakland's offense has looked Denver's defense could also be in for an equally productive night. I like Denver to win big, but I wouldn't feel confident enough to bet on them to cover. Denver 31 Oakland 13
John: The Broncos are rolling. They're coming off seven wins in a row and in six of those games they've scored 30 points or more. When they beat the Raiders at home in week six the score of that game was 37-6.
I like the Broncos too much and dislike the Raiders so much that I think this has blowout potential all over it. The Broncos are too good offensively with Peyton Manning playing at an MVP level and their defense has the kind of pass rush that is going to give the Raiders a lot of problems. What happens when you pressure an immobile QB like Carson Palmer? Turnovers. The Broncos will force a few of those (a Von Miller sack/fumble seems very likely) and convert them into points.
I know that sometimes bad teams can play better against a divisional opponent that is clearly superior to them, but I think the Raiders have given up. The coach Dennis Allen is rumored to be fired, their defense is doing nothing for them (given up 34+ points in four of the last five losses) and the lack of a consistent running game has really hurt their offense. They're one of the worst teams in the league again. What else is new?
I'm going with the Broncos in an easy win and they should cover the 10.5 point spread too. It's not one of my fave five of the week, but I'm pretty confident in them. Broncos 34-17
Thanks for reading. We'll be back on Friday for the rest of this week's games.
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