The Oakland Raiders and Denver Broncos close out the 2018 Monday Night Football schedule in a game that means nothing. Both teams will be home for New Year’s while twelve other squads will be preparing for the playoffs.
The Raiders have known since September that they had virtually no chance of a playoff date this year. It began the week before the regular season kicked off when they traded one of the best defensive players in football to the Chicago Bears.
Khalil Mack joined Chicago, and the Bears ended a string of four consecutive last place finishes in the NFC North Division to win it this year. Mack playing a major role in their resurgence behind first-year head coach Matt Nagy.
Right before the trade deadline, the Raiders sent one of their best offensive players, wide receiver Amari Cooper, to the Dallas Cowboys. This followed Oakland’s dismal season start and an obvious move to build for the future while stockpiling high draft choices.
Oakland got a first round pick for Cooper, and the Cowboys parlayed his talents into an NFC East Division title.
So, you might say the Raiders won two divisions this year, just not their own.
The Broncos hung around a little longer. They opened the season with narrow wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Raiders, then played to their talent level while losing six of their next seven games. When it appeared Vance Joseph may be the first head coach fired this season, the Broncos had a mid-season resurgence that saw them win three games in a row including victories over two teams that may participate in this year’s playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers are assured of a playoff spot, even have a chance at the top seed in the AFC, while the Steelers, after yesterday’s loss in New Orleans, now need help. For Pittsburgh to crack the playoff field they need a win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field next Sunday and a loss by the Baltimore Ravens at home against the Cleveland Browns.
But the Broncos, after their run of three straight wins that seemed to save their coach’s job, have him back in jeopardy following a pair of losses to teams that won’t be in the playoffs this year, the San Francisco 49ers and Browns.
So, who has the edge tonight?
Well, the Raiders have something to play for, they have a chance to lock up the first pick in the draft with losses in their final two games, tonight and next week at Kansas CIty. Based on the Chiefs losing last night in Seattle, Kansas City now needs the game against the Raiders to lock up home field advantage in the playoffs, which make the chances of Oakland gaining a win next Sunday at Arrowhead something between zero and a negative number.
The Broncos are a little better team than the Raiders, but betting on a bad team as a road favorite is akin to wanting to lose money.
I don’t want to lose money, and I am still not convinced the way to earn some is to back the Silver and Black tonight.