I just realized that Portland Trail Blazer writers circa 2000 must have had fit with all the “high” puns that were readily available whenever the “Jail Blazers”–as they were called–traveled to Denver. Alas, this is a Raider team that doesn’t lend itself to puns anymore. The Raiders are averaging the 4th fewest penalties per game, trailing first place by only seven tenths of a point. The criminal element on the team is at a minimum–though I still have a difficult time reconciling Rolando McClain’s presence. The simple truth is this team is turning into the Mannings: Amiable like Peyton, mundane like Eli, and talented like Cooper.

Did you know this was a rivalry game? Well, Peyton Manning sure does. When asked about the game, Manning responded: “It’s, first, a division game, I guess. All the games are important and division games always count double.” (my emphasis)

Fiery rhetoric from Manning, to be sure. Cornerback Champ Bailey ratcheted it up a notch, saying, “[We] hate the Raiders around here. When you’re a Bronco for a little while, you’ll understand hating a team like that.”

Raiders’ coach Dennis Allen didn’t return the sentiment, noting this week’s game is just “like every other week.”

“It’s a big game,” Allen did concede, “but we can’t get into individualism. This is a team game.” Which is to say, there will (hopefully) be no instances of Raiders’ lineman assaulting Denver fans nor of late hits on Denver quarterbacks.

Why They’ll Win

It would appear as though home-field advantage is not a factor for this game. The Raiders are 28-21-2 in Denver and haven’t lost there since 2007. The team’s success in Denver is epitomized by their best player, Darren McFadden.

Rushing
Player Date Opp Result G# W# Day Att Yds Y/A TD
Darren McFadden 2010-10-24 @ DEN W 59-14 7 7 Sun 16 165 10.31 3
Darren McFadden 2011-09-12 @ DEN W 23-20 1 1 Mon 22 150 6.82 0
Darren McFadden 2009-12-20 @ DEN W 20-19 14 15 Sun 12 74 6.17 0
Darren McFadden 2008-11-23 @ DEN W 31-10 11 12 Sun 10 38 3.80 2

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/28/2012.

If McFadden can continue his terror in Denver, the Raiders stand a chance. Really, with Dennis Allen’s intimate knowledge of the Broncos’ defense–specifically, how to exploit it–it’s not unreasonable to think that McFadden can have a big day.

Why They’ll Lose

History and McFadden’s success notwithstanding, it is quite difficult to find a reason to take the Raiders this week. Unlike last week where the Raiders played a diminished Steelers team, this Broncos team is resurgent. Yes, the Broncos have lost two straight, but they’ve done so against two of the better teams in the league, not against the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers.

What’s more, according to ProFootball Focus, the Broncos are simply a better team.

The Broncos strength, throwing the ball, just so happens to be the biggest weakness of the Raiders. Not only is Manning protected well, but he throws with great efficiency. Even with Andre Carter, the Raiders face a seemingly impossible task of disturbing Manning in the pocket, which means it’ll be a long Sunday afternoon for Michael Huff, Pat Lee, and Joselio Hanson.

Rankings

Raiders are trending in the right direction in all but one of the organizations we’re following.

ESPN

FOX Sports

ProFootball Focus

Football Outsiders

Trends

Averages

 

Who We’re Taking

Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos (-8.5)

Bay Area Sports GuyPlaying in Denver isn’t the same thing as playing on the East Coast for the Raiders, who face an offense that is gaining almost exactly as many yards per game as they are. Pick: Raiders

East Bay Sports Guy: I know that this is a dangerously high line, but I also know that the Broncos are the best run-defense in the league, that the Raiders success is predicated on the run game (see: last week’s game), that the Broncos are 51-29 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, that the Raiders lost to the Miami Dolphins on the road by 22 points, that that is enough that’s. While the Raiders haven’t lost in Denver since 2007, law of averages says they’ll lose this one. If you’re going to lose, might as well lose big, right? Pick: Broncos

Bay Area Stats Guy I think that this line is pretty crazy. 8.5 points is quite a bit and I don’t buy that the Broncos are a team good enough to deserve that kind of line. After 3 games they have scored and allowed the same number of points. That doesn’t scream give more than a touchdown. My model agrees with a median difference of 2 with the Broncos only winning 53 percent of the time. Pick: Raiders

Ruthless Sports Guy: Here’s to hoping Dennis Allen knows enough about the Broncos to derail them like Singletary did to the 49ers last week. You want to see the Raiders rattle off two wins in a row, but even if they don’t, a touchdown plus a hook is a nice cushion in a division rivalry game. Pick: Raiders

Bay Area Duck GuySo far, every time I pick against the Raiders, they’ve won. Every time I’ve picked the Raiders, they’ve lost. This time, I really do think the Raiders will lose to Denver, so I’m taking the Broncos. But if this trend keeps up, I’ll keep picking against the Raiders just so they’ll win. Pick: Broncos