Paul Klee’s Scorecard: Broncos at Raiders, 8:20 p.m. Monday, ESPN, 850 AM
With enemies like Oakland, who needs friends? As the Broncos go in circles hunting a franchise QB, the Raiders go in circles with one. Joe Flacco will be Denver’s sixth starter since Week 11 in 2015. Since then, Oakland’s had Derek Carr for all but three games. Denver still has more wins (28-30) than Oakland (25-31).
Good news first: In the 2010s, Vic Fangio’s coached six defenses that ranked in the top 10 in points allowed (five in the top three). Not too shabby, eh? Now the bad news: Fangio’s ‘D’ in San Francisco had NaVorro Bowman. His Chicago ‘D’ had Roquan Smith. Who’s the stud inside linebacker in Denver?
Diontae Spencer is your new punt returner. A little about Diontae: 5-8, 163 pounds, McNeese State grad, Canadian Football League alum. He’s Denver’s closest thing to a return threat since Trindon Holliday: CFL punt returns of 96 and 87 yards, a missed field goal return(!) of 113 yards.
Thirty-two years in the NFL, and Monday night represents Fangio’s first game as a head coach. “I’m not very good at enjoying the moment,” Fangio joked. “I’ll enjoy it if we win.” Here’s a good hunch the good folks at Ragnacci’s, his neighborhood Italian restaurant in Dunmore, Pa., will enjoy it for him.
The Broncos will play well on Monday night. This opener feels personal to veterans like Chris Harris Jr., who know the Raiders have beat them up in Oakland. If Denver doesn't commit the brain farts (10.2 flags per game) that led to three straight L's here, they’ll beat the Raiders. Brandon McManus, from 52 yards, for the win.
Klee’s pick: Broncos (plus-1) 22, Raiders 20 (Record: 0-0 overall, 0-0 ATS)