The soap opera featuring Antonio Brown and the Oakland Raiders came to a shocking conclusion on Saturday. Brown asked Mike Mayock to be released, got his wish, and then landed in New England with the Patriots on a 1-year deal. It was nothing but a circus in Oakland. One thing after the other came up. By the looks of it now, it’s abundantly clear that he was doing everything in his power for the Raiders to release him.
Bill Belichick was quick to react and got a deal done with Antonio, which many argue was planned all along, indicating possible collusion. With a healthy Josh Gordon and Brown, the Patriots are going to have an unstoppable force. Gronk may be gone, but they could somehow be better without him now. Who knows, perhaps this motivates Gronk to want to come back and play later in the season. Imagine that.
Back in Oakland, the Raiders still have to keep things in perspective. They have a season to worry about in front of them. The Raiders, especially Derek Carr, must have a short memory and focus on the Denver Broncos on Monday night. Not only do they not have Brown, but Khalil Mack was traded last season. His salary off the books opened up money to sign an elite target for Carr. That, uh, didn’t go according to plan.
There will be more pressure on Jon Gruden to get this ship headed in the right direction before arriving in Las Vegas. His job is going to get a lot more difficult without a threat like Antonio on the field. The Broncos were already loving all of this drama surrounding him during training camp. Now two nights before the season opener, a bombshell is dropped. The Raiders have to remain focused, but I think that’s a lot to ask with everything going on.
All of Sunday and Monday leading up to this matchup is going to be Antonio Brown talk. The good news is that the Raiders have been preparing for him being unavailable in this game, so they should at least be prepared here. Head below for our free Broncos vs. Raiders pick in Week 1 on Monday Night Football.
Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders NFL Week 1 Betting Odds:
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Broncos vs. Raiders Pick:
The Raiders will have a gaping hole in their offense without Antonio Brown streaking across the field. His speed and route running cannot be replaced on this current roster. Not even remotely close. Their receiving core will consist of J.J. Nelson, Tyrell Williams, Dwayne Harris, and Hunter Renfrew. Yikes. What looked like a positive leaves Derek Carr left out in no mans land with this group.
To make matters worse for the Raiders, Nelson is listed as questionable going into Monday night. Nelson is a speedster who would have been nice with Antonio, but so much for that. If he is out of the contest, the Raiders lose a lot of speed offensively. He is not going to be 100% either way.
What Carr must do in this game is hit his quick slants and move the ball methodically on the Denver defense. Von Miller and Bradley Chubb are going to be a headache to deal with, and I don’t think the Raiders have the offensive line to give Carr all day back there to throw the ball. Now with a serious blow to their speed on the field, it’s going to be even more important that Carr doesn’t hang on to the ball too long.
Oakland will rely heavily on Josh Jacobs in the backfield. The Broncos are stout with Miller and Chubb up front and will likely cause issues for the Raiders game plan. The Broncos are going to try and establish the run as well. I just think they’re going to do a much better job of accomplishing their goals in this one.
The Raiders were one of the worst teams in the NFL at defending the ball in 2018. They allowed 140.6 yards per game, which was good for 30th in the league. The Raiders allowed the most points in franchise history last season. Newcomers Vontaze Burfict and top draft pick Clelin Ferrell should help, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. A guy named Khalil Mack may have helped.
Don’t expect either team to run away with this game. It should be a close contest throughout in the final season opener at Oakland Coliseum in team history. The off-field distractions and no Antonio Brown will certainly hurt the offense. Also, one of the most underrated points in this game is that J.J. Nelson is questionable to play Monday night. If he does play, he’s not going to be playing at full speed. Look for Joe Flacco to win his debut with the Broncos to edge out the Raiders by a score of 24-20 on Monday Night Football.