MNF Raiders vs Broncos

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos -15.5 Total 49.5

Monday, September 23th, 2013 TV: ESPN 8:30 EDT

The AFC West takes center stage on Monday Night Football as the division leading Broncos play host to the upstart Raiders at Mile High Stadium.

Oakland comes into Denver with 1-1 record after defeating the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars at the Oakland Coliseum. To be fair, most ranked the Raiders among the league’s worst teams coming into the season, and they are likely lucky to be 1-1 due to facing a pathetic Jacksonville team last week. Regardless, a win is a win, and it’s not like Oakland has been a total disaster.

They kept it close with Indianapolis in Week 1 and forced the Colts to rally late to win the game. In the 19-9 win against Jacksonville last week, the Raiders defense held the Jaguars to just 248 total yards of offense.

Terrelle Pryor hasn’t been anything remarkable in the first two games, but he finally got help from the running game in Week 2. Darren McFadden rushed for 129 yards on 19 carries and will be a key cog for the Raiders going forward. If he is healthy and producing, this team becomes a lot better. Pryor is one of the more inaccurate passers in the league today but is a gifted athlete who is also a considerable rushing threat.

However, Oakland did get hit with a critical injury in the home win last week. Their best defensive player, safety Tyvon Branch fractured his fibula in the first quarter. He is one of the more experienced players in the Oakland secondary and is out indefinitely.

The Broncos have been the AFC’s most dominant team in the first two weeks of the season, and one wonders who can stop these guys? Quarterback Peyton Manning has shredded opposing defenses, throwing for almost 770 yards in two games, nine touchdowns and no interceptions.

Denver beat the hell out of the Giants in the “Manning Bowl” handing Eli and the G-Men their second loss of the season. It wasn’t even as close as the 41-23 final score would indicate. Making Denver’s offense even scarier is the emergence of Knowshon Moreno in the running game. The fifth year back has emerged as the clear starter in Denver’s formerly muddled backfield situation.

Like the Raiders, Denver suffered a significant injury on Sunday that will impact their season tremendously. Left Tackle Ryan Clady, who allowed just one sack to get to Manning last year will miss the rest of the season with a Lisfranc tear in his left foot. Clady was signed to a five year $33 million dollar contract in the offseason and is considered the anchor of the offensive line.

The Line

The game opened at Denver -13 and has moved to -15 or even -16 at some sportsbooks due to heavy action on the Broncos. The total opened at 48.5 and looks to continue moving up. Most books have the number at 49 or 49.5.

The Play

Like I mentioned in my pick on the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are +19.5 for this week, it is hard to stay away from a high double –digit spread in the NFL. Especially as early as Week 3, while it’s true Denver is a much better team than Oakland, 15.5 points are still a ton.

Both teams suffered some serious injury losses last week, but the Broncos injury list will have much more of an impact. It’s a little known fact that the Raiders currently lead the NFL in sacks, albeit that number is inflated by facing the Jaguars last week. However, make no mistake, this team can get to the quarterback. Peyton is as good as anyone at getting the ball out and should be able to beat up on the Raiders secondary easily, but don’t discount the loss of Clady. His backup Chris Clark is a large drop-off.

Opponents haven’t had much of a chance to run on the Broncos because they had to abandon the run after being down so many points early in the game. The Raiders might be the most run-oriented offense in the entire league, and if they can establish their running game early, this one should be at least close. The Giants had little success last week on the ground against Denver, but their backfield situation is in flux, and their run game has struggled to get going all season. Denver’s defense may have more trouble than most think containing Pryor’s running ability and a spry looking Darren McFadden.

A few question marks about the matchup are all bettors need to bet a +15.5 number. Oakland has a chance to be in this game, and that’s enough reason to take the points on a two-touchdown plus number.

Take points with the Raiders +15.5.

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