The Denver Broncos will meet the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football as huge favorites to win at home in the Mile High City.
Oakland is 1-1 to start the season and nearly started 2-0 after narrowly losing to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. The Raiders' win came against the worst team in the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and while their performance in Indianapolis was better than expected, questions remain over this team.
Denver is on a much different path than their counterparts. The Broncos smoked the Baltimore Ravens in Week 1 and avenged their playoff loss from a season ago. In Week 2, things were tight with the New York Giants, but the Broncos rose to the occasion in the second half and finished off the G-Men without incident.
It's clear the Broncos are the better team, so picking them to win and cover the spread makes sense. However, there are some other bets that should be considered locks going into this Week 3 matchup.
Let's take a look at some bets you must take for this game.
All lines are courtesy of SportsBook.
Spread (Broncos -16)
Bettors may be a little concerned in the first half of this game if they take the Broncos to cover the spread. That's because the Broncos have proven time and time again that they are not a very good first-half team.
Against the Ravens in Week 1, the Broncos actually trailed in the first half, 17-14. In Week 2 it was a similar showing for Denver as it held a slim 10-9 lead after 30 minutes versus the Giants.
Coming into this game, the Raiders are No. 2 in the NFL in sacks and should get penetration and hits on quarterback Peyton Manning early on thanks to injuries to the offensive line, which recently lost tackle Ryan Clady for the season, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport:
On Monday, #Broncos OT Ryan Clady told friends he feared he was out for the season. Now, he is. Source says he's headed to season-ending IR— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 18, 2013
But making adjustments are just another day at the office for Manning, whose intelligence allows him to overcome such deficiencies. Look for Manning to come out in the second half and make a relatively close game a blowout.
One of the biggest strengths of the Raiders this season has been its rushing attack, which ranks No. 2 in the NFL and has gotten a great boost from quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
Denver can combat that, however, as the Broncos rank No. 1 in the NFL against the run this season. There's no question the Broncos will keep a spy on Pryor and stack the box to defend against running back Darren McFadden, all the while forcing the sophomore quarterback to beat them through the air.
The Broncos will find their stride during the second half of this game and put points on the board while stifling what is a suspect Raiders offense.
Prediction: Broncos will cover the spread
Over/Under 49.5 Total Points
While the Raiders likely won't do much to help this score reach the over, the Broncos have more than enough on offense to get it done.
In their first two games of the season, the Raiders have had marginal success putting points on the board, with 21 and 19 points in their first two games respectively. Against a tougher defense in Week 3, Oakland may fall short of those point totals, but they won't get shut out.
A bright spot for the Raiders offense is the fact that the Broncos may be without both of their best defenders as Von Miller (suspension) will be out for this game and cornerback Champ Bailey (questionable, foot) and linebacker Shaun Phillips (questionable, back) may not play either, per ESPN.com.
That should make things at least slightly easier for Oakland, as both Bailey and Phillips may not be 100 percent even if they do play.
As for the Broncos, their potent offense has been dominating. Denver has posted 49 and 41 points in two games, respectively. The emergence of running back Knowshon Moreno last week now adds yet another element to the Broncos offense to make it even more dangerous.
Even if the Broncos match their season low in points, the Raiders will need to muster up just nine points to reach the over.
Denver is notorious for slow starts, but Manning will have a field day picking apart an unproven secondary in Oakland at some point in this game. That will lead to another big day for Manning and the Broncos offense, thus taking the over is the best bet.
Prediction: Over 49.5
Over/Under 26 For First Half Points
In each of their first two games this season, the Broncos have failed to score more than 14 points in the first half. The most the Raiders have scored in the first 30 minutes of a game is 10 points, and that was against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
Things figure to be much tougher this week against the Broncos, and the Raiders will be fortunate to go into the half with as much as a field goal.
So, even if the Broncos go against the grain and start off strong in this game, the Raiders won't live up to their end of the bargain to reach the over despite the Broncos defensive injuries. At full strength or not, the Broncos still have a better defense than either of the Raiders first two opponents.
Most likely the Broncos won't blow the doors off the Raiders defense right away as it figures to put pressure on the Broncos signal-caller from the jump. That should slow down Denver's offense to the point that the first-half score is respectable.
With one or both teams failing to get a into the end zone early and often, taking the under for the first half is as close to a sure bet as you can get.
Prediction: Under 26 for first half