How things can quickly change in just three short weeks. After Peyton Manning and the Broncos dismantled the Steelers in week 1, they have dropped their last two games against the Falcons and Texans. I recall many claiming the Broncos AFC Champions after an impressive week 1 showing, but those same people are now turning their backs on them already. Manning hasn’t showcased his elite arm strength so far this season, and has fluttered balls to his receivers on many occasions. After falling behind big early the Broncos tried to stage another comeback late in the fourth quarter, similar to the Falcons game, but they still fell short by 6 points, 31-25 The Falcons and Texans are no slouches though, two teams that many have nabbed to go far in the postseason. This week they will welcome a Raiders team to Mile High that is fresh off an upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. The Raiders aren’t a team projected to go far this season, but the year is still young, and back-to-back victories over good teams would serve them well.
If the Raiders want to shock a few people and go far this season, it is all predicated around running back Darren McFadden. McFadden has fought the injury bug the last couple years, finding it difficult to stay on the field and getting into a rhythm. So far this season, he underperforming the first two weeks, but McFadden busted out last week against a stingy Steelers defense. He finished with 113 yards on 18 carries, including a 64-yard burner up the middle in the first quarter for 6. McFadden will operate against the 14th best rushing defense in the NFL. A problem the Broncos will have in week 4 is playing a linebacker short. Joe Mays will be suspended this week for his hit on Matt Schaub; yes, the same hit that Schaub lost a piece of his ear on. The Broncos will also be without safety Quinton Carter who has been placed on the IR. Rookie Duke Ihenacho out of San Jose State has been activated from the practice squad to give the Broncos depth in this respect.
The passing game for the Raiders has been a mixed bag under Carson Palmer. They are still searching for a number one target for him, and with Darrius Heyward-Bey out with a concussion it complicates the situation even more. Not just the injury, but Heyward-Bey has failed to breakout yet even when healthy. The Raiders will continue to work the ball around to multiple receivers and hope for the best. There really is no telling what Raider is going to be in for a big day under this offense. Last week against the Steelers, Palmer connected with nine different receivers totalling 209 yards. Tight end Brandon Myers was the leading receiver with 55 yards. Like I said, it is anyone’s guess who is going to be the go-to-guy for Palmer week-to-week.
Manning should feel much more comfortable against the Raiders after having to play the Texans. The Raiders sport the 23rd best defense in the league, allowing an average of 381 yards a game and 29.3 points a game. Serious doubts will be raised about Peyton Manning if he struggles in week 4. Not only is his arm strength an issue, but Manning has failed to get in sync with his receivers for the most part. In Indianapolis Manning could have connected with his favorite targets in his sleep. Something definitely seems amiss so far in his tenure with the Broncos.
Raiders vs. Steelers Spread and Betting Odds:
Oakland Raiders +7 (-115)
@ Denver Broncos -7 (-105)
Over 49 (-110)
Under 49 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Raiders vs. Broncos Pick:
There are two occasions where the Raiders rise up to the occasion and play solid football. One being against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the other against the Denver Broncos. If history tells us something, like it did last week, the Raiders should be able to compete against the Broncos. Mile High has notoriously been bad news for opposing teams, but the Raiders have thrived there. The Raiders are 6-0 ATS in Denver, and 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings. Furthermore, the road team is 7-1 ATS in this series over the last eight games. Generally, the Broncos have had a pretty good team during that span, and the Raiders have certainly not so it isn’t a case of the Raiders being a better team. Not only do the Raiders usually bring it against the Broncos, but they are also 10-4 ATS in their last fourteen against AFC West opponents.
I don’t feel confident backing a Peyton Manning that has trouble with 40+ yard passes. After he begins to show he can force the ball downfield then I would feel obliged to back the Broncos. The Broncos may end up winning, but the Raiders should keep it close enough to pick up the cover.
PICK = Raiders +7