Manning leads Broncos into Black Hole

Published on Dec. 6, 2012, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

For this week’s Thursday night NFL game, we go to The Black Hole where Oakland will try to bring an end to a seven-game winning streak for its bitter division rival, Denver. Most books are listing the Broncos as 10-point favorites with the total in the 48-49 range for ‘over/under’ wagers.

Gamblers can take the Raiders on the money line for a plus-500 return (risk $100 to win $500).

Denver (9-3 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) has already clinched the AFC West and is now eyeing a bye week to start the playoffs. The Broncos clinched the loop with last week’s 31-23 win over Tampa Bay as nine-point home favorites. However, they failed to hook up their backers when the Buccaneers scored 10 unanswered points in the final 3:23.

Peyton Manning connected on 27-of-38 throws for 262 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Demaryius Thomas hauled in eight receptions for 99 yards and a pair of scores.

John Fox’s team has won four of its six road games, posting a 3-3 spread record. As a road favorite on Fox’s watch, the Broncos own a 4-2 ATS ledger.

Denver ranks fifth in the NFL in total offense and third in total defense. With Manning at the steering wheel, the Broncos are averaging 29.3 points per game.

Willis McGahee went on injured reserve last week after sustaining a season-ending knee injury. McGahee had rushed for a team-high 731 yards and four TDs, averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

In his absence, Knowshon Moreno will get the bulk of the carries. The University of Georgia product rushed for 69 yards on 20 totes against the Bucs.

Manning has enjoyed a banner comeback campaign, throwing for 3,502 yards with a 29/9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Thomas has been his favorite target, producing 69 catches for 1,114 yards and eight TDs.

Oakland (3-9 SU, 3-9 ATS) is going to fail the make the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season since losing to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl. The Raiders have lost five in a row both SU and ATS, including last week’s 20-17 home loss to Cleveland as one-point underdogs.

During this nightmare five-game slide, Dennis Allen’s squad has tasted defeat by 21 points or more three times and by double digits four times.

Carson Palmer has played mediocre in recent weeks, throwing eight interceptions during the five-game losing streak. For the season, Palmer has a 20/13 TD-INT ratio.

The good news for Oakland is the expected return this week of running back Darren McFadden, who has missed four consecutive games with a leg injury. McFadden has rushed for a team-high 455 yards and a pair of TDs.

Per those numbers, Oakland has obviously had zero ground attack going without the Arkansas product.

Oakland LB Rolando McClain remains ‘out’ as he continues to serve a team-issued two-game suspension. Also, perennial Pro-Bowl DT Richard Seymour is ‘out’ with a knee injury.

For Denver, veteran WR Brandon Stokley is ‘questionable’ and starting LB Wesley Woodyard is ‘out.’

When these teams met in the Mile High City on Sept. 30, Denver cruised to a 37-6 win as a 6 ½-point home ‘chalk.’ Manning completed 30-of-38 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. The 43 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 47-point total.

Nevertheless, the ‘over’ has hit in five of the last six head-to-head meetings between these clubs.

The ‘over’ is 8-4 overall for the Broncos this year, going 4-2 in their six road assignments. Oakland has watched the ‘under’ go 7-5 overall, 3-3 in its home games.

The NFL Network will provide television coverage at 8:20 p.m. Eastern.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–With its backdoor cover at Denver last week, Tampa Bay improved its NFL-best ATS record to 9-2-1.

–Philadelphia remains the worst NFL team for our purposes with its abysmal 2-9-1 ATS ledger. However, the Eagles finally hooked up their backers in miraculous fashion in last week’s 38-33 loss at Dallas as 11-point underdogs. Andy Reid’s team led deep into the fourth quarter until the Cowboys took a 31-27 advantage on a Tony Romo TD pass to Dez Bryant with 5:35 remaining. Moments later, Philadelphia running back Bryce Brown coughed up a fumble that Morris Claiborne scooped up and returned 50 yards for a TD with 3:50 left. Claiborne’s play put Dallas ahead 38-27 for a push, but some bettors may have had the Eagles at plus 10 ½. Therefore, when Eagles’ rookie Damaris Johnson produced a 98-yard punt return for a TD with 30 ticks left, gamblers on the side of the underdog were quite pleased.

–In addition to Oakland tonight, Jacksonville, Minnesota and Carolina are home underdogs in Week 14. The Jags are catching 2.5 points vs. the Jets, the Vikings are three-point ‘dogs vs. the Bears and the Panthers are getting 3.5 vs. Atlanta.

–Minnesota was dealt a crushing blow Wednesday when star wide receiver Percy Harvin was placed on injured reserve due to an ankle injury suffered at Seattle last month.

–Chicago LB Brian Urlacher will miss at least the next two games and possibly the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury.

–As it becomes increasingly clear that Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger will return to the lineup Sunday versus San Diego, a hat tip to veteran back-up Charlie Batch is in order. If Batch never touches the field again in his NFL career, he went out like a champion. In a crucial AFC North battle at Baltimore last week, Batch orchestrated a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives to lead the Steelers to a 23-20 come-from-behind victory and keep their playoff hopes alive.

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