Denver secured a second consecutive AFC West title with a 31-23 win over Tampa Bay last Sunday.
The victory would ultimately prove redundant, at least in terms of winning the division, as San Diego fell to Cincinnati making it impossible for the AFC West’s other three sides to take the title. Denver wasn’t about to risk it though.
Thursday night sees the Broncos make the trip west to the Bay Area to take on the Raiders in a divisional game that will have no bearing on the division. But like last week, Denver will not be risking anything.
In Search of Home Field
With the matter of the division wrapped up, Denver (9-3, 4-2 home) will now look to secure home field advantage in the playoffs.
Currently Houston (11-1) sits on a two-game lead atop the AFC with New England and Baltimore joining Denver at 9-3. For the Broncos, securing home field, at least for the divisional portion of the playoffs, could make a huge difference, especially considering the advantages that come with being acclimatized to Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
Catching Houston might be out of the question, although Denver’s run in is slightly easier than the Texans’, but that number two spot is certainly up for grabs. In order to secure it, the Broncos will first need to beat an Oakland (3-9, 2-4 home) that has little to play for.
The Raiders’ miserable season was confounded by a 20-17 loss at home to Cleveland last week, a fifth consecutive defeat for the Northern California side. At this rate, the Raiders could well be looking at the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, although Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Kansas City will ultimately have a say in that.
Denver is a perfect 4-0 against the AFC West this season, while the Raiders have cobbled together a 1-2 record, with three left against divisional rivals. Oakland might want to consider trying to finish second in the division just for bragging right (sort of) over Kansas City and San Diego.
Looking for an Edge
In a rivalry that began way back in 1960, Oakland leads the all-time head-to-head series 60-44-2. Things have been much different since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995 though, with Denver taking 24 of 35 games in total. The Broncos have won the previous two encounters between the two sides, including a 37-6 drubbing of the Raiders back on Sept. 30.
Oddsmakers have the Broncos as 10½-point favorites on the road. With a 7-4-1 ATS record this season, Denver covering the spread might seem like a slam dunk but bettors should beware.
Although Oakland has posted a 3-8-1 ATS record, the Raiders have only lost only once at home this season by a margin of more than 10 points, a 38-17 rout by New Orleans. That suggest the spread could be a little too high. Furthermore, the Raiders have covered the spread three times this season, nothing to boast about, but all of those have come when considered an underdog.
The over/under opened at 51 and has subsequently fallen to 48½. The Broncos have seen the total go over in eight games this season, while Oakland has seen an even split between over and under.
The Broncos have breached the 30-point mark in seven of the last nine games and will have a good shot at doing likewise this week as they face the worst defense in the league in terms of point allowed (31.3 points per game). But Denver will need Oakland to score some points to topple 48½, and that’s something the Raiders struggle doing – to the tune of 1936 points per game, 23rd in the league. That being said, three of the last five games between the sides have exceeded this week’s required total.