Week 1 Free NFL Picks: Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos Monday Night NFL Week 1 Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 9/12/11: When the Oakland Raiders visit the Denver Broncos Monday night, both teams will be breaking in new head coaches. However, the Raiders are coming off an 8-8 season, including a perfect 6-0 record within the AFC West, and are hoping that Hue Jackson can spearhead a playoff run. Meanwhile, the Broncos are coming off a miserable year and will turn to John Fox to repair a broken defense and improve on last year’s 4-12 record. With the AFC West expected to be up for grabs again in 2011-12, starting the season with a win against a division rival is crucial for both franchises.

It’s impossible to talk about Monday’s matchup without thinking back to last year’s game between the teams when the Raiders abused the Broncos to the tune of a 59-14 victory in Denver. Oakland running back Darren McFadden ran wild in that game, tallying 165 yards and four touchdowns. Stopping McFadden and the Raiders ground game in general isn’t going to be any easier this time around. Oakland has an experienced offensive line that helped the team rank second in rushing yards a season ago.

Slowing down McFadden and company could prove even trickier for the Broncos, considering the defense ranked dead last in yards allowed and points allowed last year, while recording the fewest sacks in the league as well. Needless to say, the Broncos focused much of their offseason additions on improving the defensive side of the ball. Fox was brought in mainly because of his reputation as a defensive minded coach. Meanwhile, the Broncos spent their first-round pick on linebacker Von Viller. The Tackling machine from Texas A&M should immediately help Denver against the run and the pass. After all, he record 27 ½ sacks in his final two collegiate season. The Broncos also welcome back pass-rushing defensive end Elvis Dumervil, who missed all of last season with an injury.

While the Broncos made upgrades on defense during the offseason, the Raiders may have taken a step back. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha signed with Philadelphia as a free agent, and the move could transform one of the better secondaries in the NFL into a mediocre unit overnight. On the plus side, the Oakland front seven is quickly emerging as one of the more productive groups when it comes to getting to opposing quarterbacks. With a mixture of youth and experience, including second-year middle linebacker Rolando McClain, the Raiders could end up masking their weaker secondary with a much improved pass rush.

With Kyle Orton under center for the Broncos, the Raiders will need to do something to slow down the passing attack of Denver. With Tim Tebow seemingly out of the picture with Fox calling the shots, Orton will full control of the offense. Last year, he was on pace to throw for 4,000 yards until Tebow was inserted as the starter for the final few games of the year. His favorite target Brandon Lloyd, who led the league in receiving yards last season, should have an easier time against Oakland this year without the presence of Asomugha.

In the end, it is hard to see the Broncos closing the gap that existed between themselves and the Raiders last season. The addition of Dumvervil and Miller should help the Denver defense, but it likely won’t be enough to halt the powerful Raiders rushing attack. Orton and company should hit some big plays of their own in the passing game, but the persistent rushing attack should take its toll as the game goes on. The Broncos should avoid a blowout, but with the Raiders getting three points, they seem like a safe bet to cover.

Free NFL Football Picks and Predictions: Oakland Raiders +3

Week 1 NFL Football: Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos
Date: 9/12/011
Time: 10:15 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds - Favorite: Denver -3Total: Over/Under 40.5

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