Broncos vs. Raiders Odds & Picks: Bet Vegas To Cover Before Spread Moves
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images. Pictured: Derek Carr
Broncos vs. Raiders Odds
The Raiders and the Broncos will face off in a game devoid of any implications for either team.
The Raiders are fresh off a tough 26-25 loss at the hands of the Dolphins, while the Broncos have been dealing with similar feelings after a close 19-16 loss of their own.
Can the Raiders set aside the fact they are no longer in postseason contention and take care of business against the rival Broncos on Sunday?
Las Vegas Raiders
Right tackle Trent Brown (ankle) has been ruled out of Sunday’s contest, while linebacker Nicholas Borrow was activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list after testing negative all week.
Quarterback Derek Carr has made significant strides throughout this season and has been a bright spot for the Raiders’ offense. He’s on track to finish with the best quarterback rating (102.2) and second-lowest interception ratio (1.5%) of his career.
Sunday, he’ll take on a Broncos defense that has been solid this season, ranking 11th in Football Outsiders’ pass DVOA. Denver’s front seven has been especially good at causing issues for opposing quarterbacks, ranking ninth with a pass rush rating of 76.0 and 10th with a 69.6 coverage rating according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
That said, the Broncos’ defense has been exploited in recent weeks. Despite holding the Chargers to 19 points last week and the Chiefs to just 22 points on Dec. 6, the Broncos have allowed an average of 35 points in their three other games over the past five weeks.
The Raiders also have the benefit of a non-threatening matchup for their most dynamic playmaker in tight end Darren Waller, who has been excellent this season — particularly down the stretch. Through 15 games, he’s compiled a 98-1079-8 line and has averaged 134 receiving yards per game over his last four games.
Waller’s primary defender in this one is expected to be linebacker Alexander Johnson, a player with whom he will enjoy a 29% advantage over, according to PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart. Overall, Denver ranks 19th in pass defense DVOA against tight ends.
While running back Josh Jacobs will have a tough matchup on paper against Denver’s No. 6 rush defense (per PFF), he exploited this same matchup in Week 10 with 21-112-2 on the ground and 4-24-0 through the air.
The Broncos will have to make a big decision on the future of quarterback Drew Lock following the 2020 season. He’s failed to live up to the lofty expectations in Denver after a disappointing season that currently has him leading the league in interceptions (15) and ranked 24th with just 14 passing touchdowns. His 57% completion percentage and 50.0 quarterback rating also leave much to be desired.
Lock will have a strong matchup on paper against a Raiders defense that ranks 22nd in pass defense DVOA, but Lock has yet to show that he can take advantage of these types of situations on a consistent basis.
Instead, the Broncos are likely to lean on the run game against a Raiders defense that currently ranks 25th with a 46.7 rush defense rating according to PFF. The tandem of running backs Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay will need to take advantage of this mismatch to hide the deficiencies in Denver’s passing game.
Gordon has been playing particularly well of late, averaging 6.2 yards per attempt over the Broncos’ past four games. During that time, however, he’s averaging just 13.8 rushing attempts per game. That number that will need to increase if the Broncos wish to win this game on the ground.
Despite the gap in talent between these two rosters, the Raiders find themselves as just 2.5-point favorites in this road matchup between two teams with nothing left to play for.
With home-field advantage negated due to COVID-19 restrictions, this game will come down to who can make fewer mistakes. For my money, I’m betting on the Raiders to finish strong and send a message to the rest of the AFC that they belong in the playoff hunt.
Offensively, Las Vegas’ prowess far exceeds Denver’s, and while the Raiders struggled defensively, the Broncos have done nothing to indicate that they can take advantage of these spots the way other teams in the league can.
With 72% of tickets and 70% of money on the Raiders as of Saturday (find real-time public betting data here), this is an instance where both sharps and the public agree. The data points in the same direction. Take the Raiders to cover this small spread and grab it before it heads above the 3-point threshold.
Pick: Raiders -2.5