We might as well start calling them the Las Vegas Raiders now.
There is just one game left in the season and the Raiders look to get back to .500 against their AFC West division rivals, the Denver Broncos up at Empower Field at Mile High.
Preseason predictions showed the Raiders as an improving team but most pundits predicted another losing season due to the difficulty of the Raiders schedule. For a while there in mid-season, the Raiders went on a tear and it looked like they were going to prove the nay-sayers wrong. They went three in a row after losing a very close game to the Texans in Houston, beating the Detroit Lions (31-24), the San Diego Chargers 26-24, and the Cincinnati Bengals (17-10).
But since then, the Silver and Black have gone on an epic slide. They lost to a really bad Jets team 34-3, then the Kansas City Chiefs 40-9. Two straight weeks where they couldn’t seem to get any offense going. The losing continued with a 21-42 home loss to a surging Tennessee Titans team, then a loss in one we expected them to win in their last game in Oakland against the Jacksonville Jaguars, making four straight losses.
But the Raiders continued their 2019 dominance over their other division rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers by getting their second win over Rivers and his crew in Week 16 to move to 7-8. Now it’s just the Broncos – who the Raiders have already beaten this season– standing in the way of an (8-8) campaign.
Let’s break down the Raiders vs. Broncos by looking at their stats and recent performances.
The overall point differential explains why the Broncos are favorites of 3.5 points in Vegas and at the best online sportsbooks. The Oakland Raiders have the 24th ranked offense in the NFL, scoring 19.87 points per game. Derik Carr has kept the passing game strong, putting up 236.47 yards per game through the air, good enough for 14th in the league and 119.73 on the ground, which is 13th. So, penalties and Red Zone efficiency have been the Raiders’ Achilles heel.
The Broncos average just 17.73 points per game, way back at 27th and are 29th in the NFL for passing yards with just 196.47. On the ground, they are 18th in the NFL with just 106.13 yards per game. But they do improve slightly at home where the Broncs score 19.14 per game. The Raiders fall to 18.43 on the road.
However, the biggest differences that jump out between these two teams are the defensive ones. The Raiders allow 26.87 per game along with 262.40 passing yards. The Broncos allow 20.07 and just 215.27 passing yards per game, which is 6th in the NFL. Conversely, the Silver and Black have a top 10 run defense at just 100 ypg allowed, and the Broncos sit back at 18th in this category.
On the road, it gets much worse. The Raiders allow 31 per game on the highway compared to the Broncos 18.29 points allowed in Mile High. That said, the Raiders have had a tough road schedule. Furthermore, the stats don’t tell the full tale.
This is going to be a close game. The Raiders’ main weakness is stopping the pass. But the Denver Broncos can’t pass the ball well. That said, they are still coming off a win over the Lions and they got back-to-back wins over the Chargers and Texans before falling to the Chiefs in Week 15. But even against the Lions, Drew Lock only got 192 passing yards.
I expect Jon Gruden to do his best rock-pounding game plan to try and exploit the Broncos’ weak run defense. Of course, there will be some deep shots down-field but we should expect Carr to nickel and dime the Broncos defense with flat passes and short crossing routes to keep them honest and set up more gut-busting football.
The Broncos are at home, so it wouldn’t shock me if they got a division win over the Raiders who have had a rough run of it on the road this season. But, the Silver and Black could steal this one away, and even if they don’t, they are going to keep this one close.
Take the Raiders +3.5. Either the Raiders win, or they keep it within a field goal.