(4-8) Los Angeles Chargers at (7-6) Las Vegas Raiders (-3.5, 52.5)
Breakdown: There are playoff implications on the line for the Raiders as they host the Chargers in Las Vegas to get Week 15 in the NFL underway. The Raiders’ home loss to the Colts last week left them severely hobbled but they’re technically still alive. Currently sitting one game back of both the Dolphins and Ravens, a loss here would be a critical blow. They do host the Fins next week, so a win over the Bolts opens the door for Vegas to have a path to the #7 spot in the AFC. While they’d still technically be in the race with a loss, this is a must-win game for the Raiders. However, Los Angeles isn’t just going to lay down to help their division rival.
The Chargers showed, once again, that they struggle with execution in critical situations on offense. Fortunately, the Falcons refused to run the ball with the 4th quarter lead and Matt Ryan threw a pair of costly interceptions as a result. The 3-point victory was a big moment for a young team that was coming off a 45-0 shutout loss to New England. The Bolts are the underdogs for a reason, but this matchup is closer than the line suggests.
These teams are separated by less than 200-yards of total offense, with the Chargers coming in at 8th and the Raiders at 14th, and even their average yards-per-play is only off by 0.4-yards. Los Angeles has the 4th ranked passing offense, which is bound to happen when playing from behind, but Vegas is only about 250-yards far behind at 14th. Any advantage in the run game is basically a push with the Raiders having a slight edge in yards-per-game 117.9(12th) to 112.6(16th). Even the turnover numbers are comparable (16 for LA and 20 for LV), with the Bolts having more interceptions and the Raiders fumbling more often. The biggest offensive edge for Vegas is that they average almost 4-pts more per game, including a far better kicking game that’s seen Daniel Carlson land at a 92.9% clip with as many field goals made as the Chargers have attempted. Both teams are likely to score with LV having a slight edge so let’s look at the defenses.
Los Angeles has the edge in total defense as their 9th ranked group has given up 600-yards fewer than Vegas’ 25th ranked unit. The Bolts’ #7 pass defense has been surprisingly stout and gives up 40 fewer yards-per-game than the Raiders’ #25 pass defense. Neither team has a solid run defense (LA 21st, LV 25th), both giving up over 120-yards on the ground per game. The same goes for scoring defense as the Chargers give up 27.8-ppg (26th) to the Raiders 30.1-ppg (30th). Even though LA does have an edge in yards allowed, the net result doesn’t keep points off the board for opposing offenses, so it’s probably not going to be a deciding factor in this game.
The absence of safety Jonathan Abraham, cornerback Damon Arnette, defensive end Clelin Ferrell, and linebacker Nicholas Morrow certainly isn’t going to help an already poor Raiders’ defense. Only offensive tackle Brian Bulaga and linebacker Emeke Egbule are officially out for the Chargers, but LB Dezel Perriman and safety Nasir Adderley are doubtful and both wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are questionable with Williams trending towards the sideline.
This is a division game so it’s more likely to be close than not. Vegas is 7-6 against the spread this season while LA is 6-7 so it’s a coin toss on the cover, but I’d lean towards the Chargers with all the defensive injuries for the Raiders. Vegas has only been under on the total points three times this season, six times for LA so, with a pair of defenses that give up a lot of points, they are probably going over in this one.
Over/Under: Over 52.5