San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders (-3.5, 50 o/u)
If you love football for the run-stuffing, hard-hitting, stingy defenses, then I would advise you to turn away from this one. This AFC West showdown features two of the worst defenses in the league, as the San Diego Chargers (1-3 SU, 2-2 ATS) travel upstate on Sunday (October 9) to visit the Oakland Raiders (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) at Oakland Coliseum (4:25 PM ET).
If you’re a Chargers fan, there are two different ways you can be looking at the previous four weeks: one, you’re thrilled that even without Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, and Joey Bosa, the Chargers have been very competitive; or two, your boiling point is nigh as the team has squandered three fourth-quarter leads. Personally, I’d be calling Mike McCoy to figure out what he does to keep so much hair.
Last week, the Chargers let a 13-point lead slip away late in the fourth, turning the ball over on three straight drives – all deep within their own territory.
On the bright side, Philip Rivers (1,110 passing yards, seven touchdowns, one interception, 104.5 passer rating) deserves consideration in early MVP discussions as he has continued to move the ball and put points on the board without his two best weapons.
Rivers has made names out of guys like Travis Benjamin (21 receptions, 277 yards, two touchdowns) and Tyrell Williams (16 receptions, 241 yards, one touchdown), while Melvin Gordon (73 carries, 270 yards, six touchdowns) has made big strides from his rookie season.
Thanks to Rivers’ play, the Chargers offense is averaging 30.2 points per game (second in the NFL), while ranking eighth in passing and 17th in rushing. However, their defense has not been as stellar, ranking 21st in total defense and 24th in scoring (allowing 27 points per game).
The poor defensive numbers will have to improve if the Chargers want to turn their season around, and that means containing a potent Oakland offense this week. Led by Derek Carr (1,066 passing yards, nine touchdowns, one interception), the Raiders’ offense ranks seventh in scoring (27 points per game), ninth in passing, and fifth in rushing.
Carr has had the help of Amari Cooper (20 receptions, 318 yards) and Michael Crabtree (26 receptions, 308 yards, four touchdowns) on the outside, while Latavius Murray (40 carries, 172 yards, three touchdowns) has run the ball well.
However, the Raiders will likely be without Murray in this one, as he is listed as doubtful due to a foot injury. This creates a major opportunity for both DeAndre Washington (23 carries, 147 yards) and Jalen Richard (17 carries, 144 yards, one touchdown). Both have been incredibly effective in limited opportunities and can cement a bigger role in the offense with a big game on Sunday.
As I mentioned earlier, neither team of these teams is stout defensively. Oakland is allowing 26.5 points per game (22nd) and ranks last in total defense. They’re struggling to get pressure on the quarterback and can’t stop either the run or pass. The meager pass rush comes as a surprise. After recording 15 sacks last season, Khalil Mack’s third season is off to a slow start with just one sack thus far. The defense may be shorthanded this Sunday, as well, with Malcolm Smith (quad) questionable.
It’s difficult to put much faith in either team considering how bad their respective defenses are. But, one is worse than the other, and that same team is also favored by more than a field goal. While both offenses should be able to move the ball at will, laying more than three points is too much. Not to mention, the Raiders are 0-5 against the spread in their last five home games, and San Diego is 9-3 straight up in their last 12 in Oakland.
San Diego may find a way to lose this one, but they’ll keep it within a field goal.
Pick: Chargers (+3.5).
Photo credit: BrokenSphere (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons.