Oakland Raiders (12-3 SU, 10-5 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (8-7 SU, 8-7 ATS)
Week 17 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, January 1, 2017 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: OAK +2.5/DEN -2.5
Over/Under Total: 41.5
In AFC West action on the last week of the regular season, the Oakland Raiders take on the Denver Broncos at Mile High. It seems weird to say, as usually it would be Denver poising themselves for the postseason, but they're out of it, as Oakland looks to have a shot at the top-seed in the playoffs, as they also look to lock up the AFC West. Denver was eliminated on Sunday with a 33-10 loss to Kansas City. Oakland beat the Colts on Saturday, 33-25, to go to 12-3, but suffered a major blow with a broken fibula suffered by Derek Carr. They are now forced to move forward without a big reason why they got this far.
As divisional rivals, these teams already played, with Oakland scoring a 30-20 win over the Broncos in Oakland on November 6. Things have changed to such a degree that it's iffy how much that result even matters at this point. Denver was still looking for a good season, while the Raiders still had Carr. Oakland relied a lot on their running game, with Latavius Murray going 114 yards and three touchdowns, while Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington also made nice contributions. The Oakland defense stuffed up the Denver run, while allowing less than 50% completions from Trevor Siemian. Perhaps the Raiders, without their prized quarterback, can use their run game along with their "D" to the same affect they did the first time around.
For the Raiders, the situation really took a bad turn on Saturday. Right at the end of a renaissance season where they looked to be among the top conference contenders, we're not sure what they are now moving forward. Watching them get back to the top after so many years away, it was hard to not notice how critical Carr was to the equation. He got the ball in the hands of his many playmakers, while also showing a deft touch in manufacturing wins in close games. While they have a balanced offense with a strong run-game, this hurts—there's no other way to cut it.,
Matt McGloin is now in for the Raiders and it will be up to him to lead the Raiders in this game and beyond into the playoffs. And there's still work to do. With the Chiefs holding the season-sweep over Oakland, a Raiders loss and a Chiefs win over a dilapidated Chargers team would deposit Oakland into the wild card, making it that much harder with McGloin now behind center. But if Oakland wins, they win the division and could even end up the top seed in the conference if the Pats lose to the Dolphins this week. So depending on this week, the range of possibilities for the Raiders are pretty wide indeed.
The 27-year old McGloin, a Penn State product, started 6 games for the Raiders in 2013 and has since seen limited action. His play on Saturday was his first of the season, with Carr having been a durable player in his three years in the league. It's not really known what to expect at this point from McGloin, but the weapons at his disposal have certainly increased since his 6 starts of 2013. With Michael Crabtree (questionable) and Amari Cooper, McGloin has one of the best 1-2 punches in the conference at receiver. He has a versatile running-package of Murray, Richard, and Washington, a trio of backs who can be quite useful in the short-pass. And also helping McGloin is a line that has really kept it together this season, though not necessarily when Carr got injured. But for the most part, they kept Carr safe this season, while doing a fine job of springing the run-game. For a QB stepping into the fold, you can do a lot worse, as McGloin is working with some good wideouts, a deep ground-game, and a line that might be the best in the conference. It could be worse.
Oakland will also need to ask the defense to do more, with the offense likely to take a step backwards. On one hand, they're not very good—ranked as the league's 28th-ranked defense. They're not great in terms of overall stoutness against either the run or the pass. But they make up for it in other ways. One way is by making plays. They are led by one of the most disruptive defensive players in the league in Khalil Mack. They have secured 29 turnovers on the season. And with all the close games Oakland has won, they were key in allowing a lot of those close wins to take place with their clutch late-game play.
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Denver, defending Super Bowl champions, won't get a chance to repeat, bounced out of postseason consideration by the Chiefs on Sunday. They went 4-7 after a 4-0 start this season. And the end of the season saw them in the worst form of the season, scoring a combined 23 points in their last three games. And against the Chiefs, the defensive strength they built their season on was not terribly evident. Even the moribund KC offense was having their way with this bunch, with a slew of big plays all evening long.
Even with the playoffs still in the offing, the urgency seen on this Broncos team wasn't all that great. The offense, led by Trevor Siemian, is stuck in the mud, despite having some nice aerial weapons. Their lack of a meaningful run-game has been costly and when this season got into crunch-time, they got even worse. A dysfunctional O-line didn't help. With this final-week game, what can Denver come up with? Are they still mentally in it?
Oakland will be pumped up for this—a big game in terms of playoff position, in addition to a chance to get things on the right track with a new QB behind center. And Denver might not be in much of a spot to do much about it. Their defense will provide McGloin a stiff test, a nice warm-up for the postseason. With playoff urgency abound and still a lot of good things to like about Oakland even without Carr, I see them finishing the season well with a cover in Denver.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Oakland Raiders plus 2.5 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the Raiders vs. Broncos game from the comfort of home at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!