Broncos Visit Raiders For Thursday Night Football

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos secured the AFC West title last Sunday and now look towards a higher seeding.

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.

Carolina Visits Philadelphia for Monday Night Football

Both Michael Vick and Andy Reid could be on borrowed time in Philadelphia, where the Eagles play Carolina on Monday Night Football.

Prepare for a bumpy ride as the lowly Philadelphia Eagles host the even-lowlier Carolina Panthers on this week’s edition of Monday Night Football.

No doubt when the NFL’s top brass and network execs got together to schedule this season’s fixtures, nobody expected Philadelphia and Carolina to be quite as bad as they have been. And if they did, they probably worked for NBC, who last night broadcast the much more alluring Packers-Giants matchup.

For fans of Monday Night Football, it’s the second week in three that the ‘hallowed’ game has featured bottom-dwellers. The big difference between this game and Week 10’s Steelers-Chiefs game is that this one features two bottom-dwellers.

Alas, it’s only fair that all teams get their shot under the bright lights.

Battle at the Wrong End

After being heralded as a Super Bowl contender ahead of the season, Philadelphia (3-7, 2-3 home) began scored some scrappy victories, taking three from four to start this campaign. Ever since, the Eagles have struggled and are losers of six straight games, a record in the Andy Reid era.

Carolina (2-8, 1-3 road) also entered the season with high expectations, but losses in six of the first seven meant this season became an uphill battle before it even began.

This weekend’s battle will see Philadelphia take to the field without running back LeSean McCoy, who suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to Washington. Quarterback Michael Vick will also miss a second straight game after suffering a concussion against Dallas is Week 7.

Rookie Nick Foles will spell Vick again this week. Foles, after fans clambered for him, was a less than stellar 21/46 in his full debut last week against Washington, throwing for 204 yards and two interceptions. Foles’ solitary touchdown pass this season came against Dallas.

Looking for an Edge

The Eagles lead the all-time head-to-head series 5-2, and have won four of the last five, including three straight. Carolina has just one win in Philadelphia, a 14-3 victory in January 2004 that sent the Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII. Needless to say, neither team is headed for the Big Game this season.

Carolina opened as 2½-point favorites, thanks in no small part to Philadelphia’s six-game losing skid. Bettors are likely to avoid putting cash on the Eagles even at such a small margin; Philadelphia has compiled a 1-8-1 ATS record, the worst in the entire league. Carolina hasn’t fared much better, but 4-6-0 ATS is better. Philadelphia has lost its last four games by an average of 17 points.

The over/under is 41. The total has split evenly in Carolina games this season, going over five times and under five times. Only three Eagles games have gone over. Bettors should be wary of taking the over as these two sides both struggle to put points on the board, a category in which Carolina ranks 27th and Philadelphia ranks 31st (only Kansas City has been more futile offensively).

The safest bet therefore appears to be Carolina, but that’s hardly a safe bet.

And Now For a Bit of Fun…

If the thought of this ‘barnburner’ depresses you, here are a quick couple of props, direct from Bovada, to make you smile:

Carolina is 6/1 to be awarded the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. The Panthers merely need to fall below Kansas City and Jacksonville and that dream can become a reality.

He’ll be happy pontificating on the game for ESPN from the broadcast booth, but Jon Gruden is actually 3/1 to be the head coach of one of these two sides at the start of next season. He’d probably do better to wait out the Dallas vacancy.