The AFC West was the only division in all of football that went undefeated a week ago, going 4-0 against non-divisional opponents. Two AFC West division foes will square off on Thursday Night Football in Week 10, as the Los Angeles Chargers will visit the Oakland Raiders. Both the 4-5 Chargers and the 4-4 Raiders are coming off big wins against NFC North opponents, the Packers and the Lions, respectively, and both teams remain in the hunt for the playoffs and the division.
It always seems to me like division matchups hit a little different. Like the pride at stake is worth it, regardless of the standings. So look for this game to be a four-quarter battle. It’s been the Chargers passing offense and passing defense that’s led the way so far, while for the Raiders, it’s been rushing offense and rushing defense that’s led the charge. The Chargers are favored by one in the matchup, and the over/under is currently set at 49 points.
Big Wins Can be a Spark
The Chargers put on quite a show for the few of their own fans that were in the stands at home against the Green Bay Packers last week. The Packers were four-point favorites headed into the contest but were outplayed on both sides of the ball. Philip Rivers threw for 294 yards and had a 108.3 passer rating. He didn’t have any passing touchdowns, but he didn’t turn the ball over either.
Melvin Gordon looks to be returning to form as he racked up 80 yards on 20 carries and scored twice against the Packers. Austin Ekeler, who has had a phenomenal season with Gordon holding out, also had 12 carries for 70 yards, averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. If the Chargers run game decides to catch up with the passing game, look out.
The return of Hunter Henry and Melvin Ingram III over the last few weeks has seemed to re-energize the team. Henry is back with a receiving corps that includes Keenan Allen and Ekeler and has led the team over the last four weeks in targets and receptions. Henry has 25 grabs for 328 yards and two touchdowns. Ingram has been back for two weeks now and has already racked up six tackles and had 1.5 sacks against Green Bay last week.
Righting the Ship
It was kind of an insane offseason for Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders. The team headlined HBO’s Hard Knocks this season, and, of course, there was the Antonio Brown saga, which could be written into a 500-page novel by itself. Since then, the Raiders find themselves sitting at 4-4 and by themselves in second in the AFC West.
The Raiders have beaten teams they were supposed to beat this season; the problem has been the teams that were favored over them. The Chiefs, Vikings, Packers, and Texans were all favored, and all won. The losses certainly haven’t been rookie running back Josh Jacobs’ fault. He ran for 99 yards against Kansas City and 124 in the loss to Green Bay. Last week, in the Raiders’ victory over the Lions, Jacobs had a career high in attempts with 28, ran for 120-plus yards for the third time this season, and had two touchdowns in a game for the third time this year.
Derek Carr is coming off arguably his two best games of the season. Even in the loss to the Texans, Carr racked up 285 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Carr has only thrown four picks all season and has been pressured less than any quarterback in the league. The offensive line not only allows the Raiders rushing attack to have the sixth-most yards in the NFL, but it gives Carr a clean pocket so he’s not turning the ball over.
Results That Fit the Narrative
Unfortunately for these two teams, it’s been what they haven’t done well that has caused their middling seasons. The Raiders defense is ranked dead last in the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns per game. They rank 24th in takeaways this season with only four picks to date.
The Chargers passing defense has been fantastic, ranked fifth in yards per game; however, their rushing defense is ranked 20th league-wide. Each team’s defensive weakness is their opponent’s offensive strength. All this means is I would likely bet the over.
Results-wise, I believe the Chargers are the better team here. While they are only 3-5-1 against the spread this season, they have won and covered in their last four games against the Raiders. Rivers will lead the offense, and the combination of Ingram and Joey Bosa will finally be the duo that is able to pressure Carr into making a few mistakes. The pick is the Chargers to cover for the fifth straight time against Oakland on Thursday night in prime time.