A pair of old AFC West rivals will finish off the first week of the 2019 NFL regular season when the Denver Broncos take on the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum Monday night. Both teams are in transition, with the Broncos playing their first game under new coach Vic Fangio and with new starting quarterback Joe Flacco.
Oakland, meanwhile, is coming off a week of off-the-field distractions with Antonio Brown, who went from the team’s top wide receiver to being released in the matter of just a couple of days. Brown’s release should bring the Raiders some focus rather than having to worry about what his next news-making antic was going to be, but they did look forward to seeing him on the field making plays.
The moneyline for this contest has the Denver Broncos -155 and the Oakland Raiders +135. The Broncos are favored by three points despite playing on the road, while the over/under is set at 43.
Fangio will coach his first regular-season game as a head coach in the NFL after spending last season leading the Chicago Bears’ defense as the defensive coordinator. He’ll turn to the veteran signal-caller Flacco to lead the way with an offense that will likely be fairly conservative. Flacco started last season as the Ravens’ starting quarterback, but after throwing for 2,465 yards and 12 touchdowns, he was replaced by rookie Lamar Jackson. The 34-year-old still has one of the better deep throws in the game, but he’ll likely be handing the ball off a lot to avoid turnovers and set up the Denver defense.
Speaking of the Broncos’ defense, it was pretty good last season, tying for fifth in the league with 28 turnovers forced. The pass-rush combo of Von Miller (14.5 sacks) and Bradley Chubb (12 sacks) is one of the best in football, and they’ll be coming after opposing quarterbacks again this season. The Broncos’ defensive backfield got a boost from the additions of Kareem Jackson and Bryce Callahan, who will join Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr. to try to take advantage when quarterbacks try to get rid of the ball to avoid that pressure.
It’s possible that the release of Brown on the eve of the regular season was the best thing that could have happened to the Raiders. They now don’t have to worry about Brown causing problems during the season and can instead just focus on playing football. Quarterback Derek Carr won’t have Brown to throw to, but he can still put up big numbers, as he threw for a career-best 4,049 yards and 19 touchdowns a season ago under coach Jon Gruden.
The biggest thing the Raiders has to improve on is keeping defenders off of Carr after he was sacked 51 times a season ago. Oakland brought in offensive tackle Trent Brown to try to help with that, and if Carr has receivers he can count on, he can get rid of the ball quicker. Former Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams now steps into the No. 1 position among receivers, while rookie running back Josh Jacobs can help with running the ball well to keep defenses honest.
Raiders Pull Out Victory
Oakland fans might not be happy about the release of Brown, but they’ll rally around the Raiders, especially in the team’s final season in the Bay Area before setting sail for Las Vegas. Denver is still a work in progress, though the Broncos aren’t going to make it easy on Carr with their pass rush. I see a low-scoring game for this one, with the Raiders pulling it out late. I’m going with Oakland +3 to get the home win.
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