Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos: Denver to finish on top at Mile High

Denver's defense to dominate at home
Denver's defense to dominate at home

Sunday night's NFL action takes us to the AFC West, where it's a showdown between Oakland's offense and the Denver D. Who'll come out on top? Neil Harvey takes a look...

"Michael Crabtree has been carrying the team and is the leading receiver with 3 TDs. But he hasn't practised fully all week and is questionable to play. Beyond him, a contest between Seth Roberts or Cordarrelle Patterson and the Denver secondary? Well that's a horror film too gruesome to watch to the end."

Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos
Start Time - Sunday October 1st, 21:25 BST
TV Coverage - Live on Sky Sports


Boom or Bust


Ok, let's start with a short history lesson. And it seems that traditionally this fixture is quite one-sided. For example, in the last 10 meetings between the teams, the average margin of victory has been a whopping 17 points. And Denver won eight of those encounters. The bottom line though is that these games are rarely close. In fact, just one time in the last five years was the result decided by a field goal or less. That's worth bearing in mind given Oakland are getting just a three point head start here.

Oakland have yet to have a close game this season. Double digit wins over Tennessee and the Jets had their fans purring. Then Washington walloped them 27-10 and we were all left scratching our heads. Denver also opened up with two wins, first squeaking past the Chargers, then dismantling Dallas 42-17. That result in particular suggested this Denver team was Super Bowl material. But no. Fast forward a week and the Broncos were to be found being handed their backsides by the humble Bills, 26-16.

The upshot of all this seems to be that neither Oakland nor Denver can be trusted. In fact the only thing I do trust is that whoever loses will do so in spectacular fashion. In their six games this season, the average margin of victory/defeat has been 15 points. Only one of those games was decided by single digits.


Well Protected


But who's going to win? Good question. Oakland have the far superior quarterback in the form of the classy Derek Carr (think Mercedes), over Denver's functional Trevor Siemian (think Volkswagen). Both teams have strong offensive lines (especially Oakland). And that's enabled both to base their offense on a solid running game. Oakland have Marshawn Lynch, while Denver have CJ Anderson and a born again Jamaal Charles.

On defense, both teams possess fantastic edge rushers. Denver say they've been working on special plans to counter the effectiveness of Oakland prodigy Khalil Mack. Meanwhile, Trevor Siemian says being able to practise daily against Denver's own linebacking legend, Von Miller, has taught him how and where to move when under pressure.


Defensive Frailties


The deciding factor here though is likely to be found in the secondary. Oakland's is their achilles heel and the reason I don't think they can win the Super Bowl. And certainly the current injuries to cornerback Gareon Conley and free safety Keith McGill II don't help matters. The Raiders were shredded by Washington's Kirk Cousins for 365 passing yards and three TDs last week. The holes are there, and with Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas out wide, Denver can exploit them. Thomas is overdue his first score of the season. It's bound to come soon!

Denver lost last week because they couldn't work out a stubborn Buffalo defense. They should have no such problems against the porous Raiders. Meanwhile, Derek Carr will have to aim more carefully than he's done in any game this season. His O-Line with give him time to throw, but that doesn't guarantee success because he has slim pickings to aim for.

Amari Cooper has been out of form - averaging just 30 yards a game. Michael Crabtree has been carrying the team and is the leading receiver with three touchdowns. But he hasn't practised fully all week and is questionable to play. Beyond him, a contest between Seth Roberts or Cordarrelle Patterson and the Denver secondary? Well that's a horror film too gruesome to watch to the end.


Game Picks


It's Denver all the way for me. For a double digits win. At 46, the points total is touch higher than I'd have expected. But with Oakland's D looking frail, and Derek Carr sure to try throw his way out of trouble, you can understand why. Nothing gets the scoreboard ticking over like a defensive score - and I can see Denver's secondary picking Carr off and taking one to the house.

Also the 7/4 available on both teams scoring at least a touchdown in each half looks HUGE. You can find that in the Sportsbook's #OddsOnThat section.


Recommended Bets
5pts Denver (-3) to beat Oakland @ 1.981/1
3pts Both teams to score 1+ TD in each half @ [7/4] (Sportsbook)
3pts Denver (-9.5) to win on alternative h'cap @ [5/2] (Sportsbook)
1pt Denver D/Special Team to score anytime TD @ [7/2]
1pt Demaryius Thomas to score 1st TD @ [12/1] (Sportsbook)

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