After appearing on HBO’s Hard Knocks during training camp and preseason, the Oakland Raiders will begin their season in a big way. Oakland will be a part of ESPN’s Week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader, playing in the second part of the event against the Denver Broncos at 10:20 P.M ET (on ESPN).
As division rivals, the two teams play twice every year. And, ironically, they just keep trading wins. Since 2015, they’ve split every single year, winning one game apiece in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.
Denver Hopes to Erase Lost Years
The Denver Broncos are a new team this year. They brought in a Super Bowl-winning quarterback — Joe Flacco — to lead their offense, as well as a legitimate tight end — Noah Fant — and a brand new head coach. The idea is that new coach Vic Fangio and Flacco can help put the last few years behind them. Between 2017 and 2018, the Broncos racked up back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1971-1972.
Flacco is the biggest talking point because the quarterback position has been a serious issue ever since Peyton Manning retired. With Flacco, they get a mix of talent and experience they haven’t had since Manning and a slew of weapons makes another losing season unacceptable. They may not be a postseason team but 8-8 or 9-7 is totally doable.
Helping Flacco on offense is Phillip Lindsey, a running back who topped 1000 yards as a rookie in 2018, Fant, who they spent a first-round pick on in the 2019 NFL Draft, and a pair of wide receivers — Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders — who are stoked to have a legit guy throwing them the ball. Defensively, the Broncos bring back one of the best units in the league. Under Fangio, who’s touted as a defensive mastermind, the Broncos’ D enters 2019 projected as the second-best group in football.
Big Drama in the Bay
The Oakland Raiders knew what they were getting when they sent a third and fifth-round pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for Antonio Brown. They knew he was a problem off the field, yet they made the move anyway, desperate to get the franchise back on top. Brown, after all, is one of the best receivers around and the Raiders didn’t have a legit No. 1 before making the move. Through one offseason/training camp/preseason, it’s been more headache than production, with Brown making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Everything came to a head-on Friday, just days before their season opener on Monday Night Football.
News broke that on Thursday, Brown threatened to punch Raiders GM Mike Mayock over fines levied against him for missing team activities. The outburst led Oakland to suspend him for Week 1 against Denver and it could lead to Oakland voiding his guaranteed money, per NBC Sports.
Now that the big news is out of the way, the Raiders are toss-up moving forward. Could I see them rallying around one another in the face of all the Brown drama? Yes, they are at home in Week 1 and Jon Gruden thrives in the spotlight. But if this mess affects their chemistry negatively, the 2019 season could be a repeat of last year.
The offense was supposed to be the better unit this year, as their defense is ranked No. 31 in For The Win’s preseason rankings, but with Brown out of the picture, they’re as big a question mark as the D. Rookie running back Josh Jacobs has big expectations but teams could stack the box against him if the passing game is as weak as it looks.
UPDATE (9/8/19): Antonio Brown has been released from the Raiders and is now on the Patriots. He signed a one-year deal for $15 million but was ineligible to play on Sunday night.
- 9-19-2 ATS in their last 30 games overall.
- 2-0-2 ATS in their last 4 games in Week 1.
- The favorite is 10-3-1 ATS in their last 14 meetings.