As Historically Bad Season Ends, Lock, Broncos Can Open 2021 With More Clarity

Written By Ian St. Clair on December 29, 2020

There was a time this was the game.

Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders. For some, especially the more seasoned fans in Broncos Country, that’s still the case. They remember one of the three things on the to-do list of longtime Broncos owner Pat Bowlen was “Beat the Raiders.”

But today there’s far from a consensus in the Colorado sports betting market. The rivalry just doesn’t mean that much any more. The passion and hatred has been replaced by “meh, what’s the big deal?”

Of course, when games like Sunday’s don’t carry any significance, you can see why.

Both the Broncos (5-10) and Las Vegas (7-8) have been eliminated from the NFL playoffs, and, for all intents and purposes, will play a glorified exhibition game.

For others, records matter not, and Denver better beat the Raiders.

The old adage might go something like this: “The Broncos could go 2-14, but those two wins better be against the Raiders.”

For those in the “always beat the Raiders” category, in two of the last four years, Denver did just that. In both seasons that followed those wins, the Broncos finished with a worse record than the season before.

Broncos vs. Raiders odds

As has been the case the entire season for Denver, it’s the underdog on Sunday.

That bears repeating for those betting on the Broncos: They have not been the favorite in any game of the 2020 NFL season.

Think about that, and then remember that Denver even played the rank New York Jets.

As for point spread betting, the Broncos are either 8-7 or 8-6-1 against the spread. So there’s that.

That gives you an idea of how it’s going for Denver. Speaking of which …

Historic streak of ineptitude

You don’t need a reminder of how bad it’s been in Denver the last four years, but it’s historic.

As Andrew Mason pointed out on Twitter: With the 19-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Broncos recorded their third season with double-digit losses in the last four years.

Denver had just three years with 10 or more losses in the previous 49 seasons, from 1968 through 2016 (1990, 1999, 2010).

So if you happen to see impatience from Broncos Country, that’s a huge reason why.

How the Broncos pull the upset

When these two teams met in Week 10 in Las Vegas, Denver was blown out 37-12.

So it can only get better for the Broncos.

As was the case against the Chargers, Denver will have issues at cornerback due to injuries and the suspension of AJ Bouye. Not to mention their continued issues of covering tight ends.

While Raiders tight end Darren Waller only had three catches for 37 yards in that first game, look for those numbers to shoot up on Sunday.

The Broncos will also have to stop the run.

They didn’t do that in the first game … at all. Las Vegas finished with 154 yards rushing.

Question at quarterback

In terms of the offense, and the NFL betting world, all eyes are on quarterback Drew Lock.

The question hanging over this franchise, as it has been since Peyton Manning retired, is the quarterback.

It appears the Broncos will give Lock another season, but Sunday could play a factor into that, especially if he plays as poorly as he did in that Week 10 game.

Lock threw four interceptions in one of his worst games as a starting quarterback.

If he plays anything like that again on Sunday, John Elway and the franchise may think twice about Lock.

A win and solid performance from Lock may help Denver feel better about his development from the Miami Dolphins game to now. But the key for the young quarterback remains consistency.

Add it to the list.

As 2020 comes to a merciful close, the Broncos remain in the same situation as the last four years.

With more questions than answers, a Denver win over its hated rival doesn’t get the franchise any closer to finding them.

Photo by AP / Jack Dempsey
Ian St. Clair Avatar
Written by
Ian St. Clair

Ian St. Clair is an award-winning sports journalist. He is a University of Northern Colorado graduate, Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. Ian does a weekly sports betting segment each Wednesday on the VSIN Denver CityCast each Saturday on Klahr and Kompany on Denver radio station ESPN 1600 AM.

View all posts by Ian St. Clair