This week’s Thursday Night Football game features a divisional rivalry that has seen better days – and plenty of different venues — when the Los Angeles Chargers travel to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders at 8:15 p.m. ET. Both teams are well below .500 with offences that have underperformed the expectations of most fans and bookmakers.
This game certainly doesn’t figure to provide a lot of Hall of Fame moments from the quarterbacks now that L.A.’s Justin Herbert underwent season-ending surgery on a broken finger earlier this week. The Raiders, who are favoured by a field goal at home, already made a mid-season QB change, replacing Jimmy Garoppolo with Aiden O’Connell shortly after head coach Josh McDaniel and general manager Dave Ziegler were sacked in early November.
Chargers vs. Raiders odds
|Chargers Moneyline Odds
|Raiders Moneyline Odds
|Raiders -3 (-105)
|34 points (over -110, under -110)
|Dec. 14, 8:15 p.m. ET
About the Chargers (5-8 SU, 4-8-1 ATS, 3-10 o/u)
Herbert’s injury doesn’t just impact this team, it impacts the direction the organization will take for the next several years. The Chargers are virtually eliminated from playoff contention at this point and the team will have to decide in the coming weeks whether Brandon Staley is the head coach to lead this team beyond its final game of 2023.
There has been a carousel of head coaches in San Diego and L.A. since Norv Turner left town after the 2012 season, with Mike McCoy and Anthony Lynn lasting four years each. This is Staley’s third season and he has produced just one playoff game, a loss.
Imagine how bad this team would have been if Herbert hadn’t quickly become one of the best quarterbacks in the league since being drafted sixth overall in 2020. Now, what will it look like when San Diego has the ball? The Chargers have lost four of their last five games and the only win in there was a 6-0 victory over the New England Patriots two weeks ago that would have been the poster child for the NFL’s scoring problem if not for Sunday’s 3-0 Raiders’ loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Easton Stick took over when Herbert went down in Sunday’s 24-7 loss to the Denver Broncos, completing 13 of 24 passes for 179 yards, and was sacked twice. Before that, Stick hadn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2020, when he completed the one pass he attempted (for four yards). Frankly, there’s not a lot to go on here, as Stick was a fifth-round pick out of North Dakota State in 2019.
About the Raiders (5-8 SU, 6-5-2 ATS, 3-10 o/u)
After riding a bit of an upswing after Antonio Pierce took over for McDaniel, who reportedly was unpopular in the locker room, the Raiders have come crashing back to earth, losing three of their last four.
This team’s offence is in a rather precarious position. O’Connell has actually had some decent moments since taking over, including in a competitive loss to the Kansas City Chiefs when he posted a 101.6 rating, but he looked awful throwing three interceptions against the Miami Dolphins three games ago. And last week, his average completion netted Las Vegas just 5.3 yards, so it doesn’t appear he’s particularly confident pushing the ball downfield.
If that’s not bad enough, the Raiders’ running game has serious questions after Josh Jacobs left that ugly loss in the fourth quarter with a quad injury. The Raiders’ run game already had taken a big step back this season and now they might have to go with Zamir White or Ameer Abdullah as their primary ball carrier.
The Raiders might be forced to let O’Connell throw the ball frequently, but it’s not going to matter much if his average attempt barely cracks the line of scrimmage.
This team is able to compete most weeks entirely on the strength of a defence led by edge rusher Maxx Crosby, who had a pair of sacks last week and is tied for third in the NFL with 13.5 sacks on the season. Crosby is dealing with a knee injury and is questionable to go in this one.
It’s easy to imagine the Chargers tailoring much of their game plan around Austin Ekeler in this game. Not only would generating a run game against the 25th-ranked run defence in the NFL make sense to take the pressure off Stick, with Crosby zeroing in on him, it would give him an easy check-down option when they are forced to pass.
Ekeler is a weapon in the pass game as well. He’s the team’s third-leading receiver with an average of 34.4 yards per game. Ekeler’s inflated role figures to come at somebody’s expense and that person might be Keenan Allen. He’s the league’s fourth-leading receiver, averaging 85.6 yards per game with seven touchdowns, but he’s dealing with a heel injury and, even if he goes, getting the ball downfield to Allen might be an entirely different proposal with Stick, rather than Herbert, at QB.
Consider getting behind Ekeler’s totals in this one and fading the wide receivers.
Austin Ekeler anytime TD
The Raiders have a lot of questionable players going into this week, including: Crosby (knee), who didn’t practice Tuesday; Jacobs (quad), who hasn’t practiced this week either; C Andre James (ankle); and LB Curtis Bolton, who was limited in practice, but should be able to go.
The Chargers are in fairly good shape other than the Herbert and Allen situations. TEs Donald Parham Jr. (shoulder) and Gerald Everett are (hip) questionable, as is LB Amen Ogbongbemiga.
It gets a bit nippy in the desert at this time of year, with the temperature at kickoff expected to be about 7 C, but it won’t matter much inside the walls and roof of Allegiant Stadium.
- There is a four-way tie among NFL teams when it comes to hitting unders this season and both these teams are in that mix, having combined with their opponents to hit the under in 10 of 13 games each.
- The Raiders have only been favoured five times this season, going 3-2 when they have shorter odds than the opponent on the moneyline.
- The Chargers are 0-4 as underdogs.
- The Raiders are scoring 17 points per game in divisional matchups, which is 3.8 more points per game than their overall season average.
Player prop trends
- Davante Adams had eight catches for 75 yards in the first game between these teams. His total in this one is 67.5 yards.
- O’Connell was 24-of-39 for 238 yards and a touchdown in the teams’ first game despite being sacked seven times. His total is set in this one at 204.5 yards.
- Jacobs led the Raiders with 139 total yards in that game, but his questionable status points to targeting other players.
- Vegas receiver Hunter Renfrow is averaging 32.6 receiving yards over his last five games. His receiving yards total is 26.5 (-110) in this one and he’s exceeded that mark in four of his last five contests.
Wagers to consider
- The Raiders’ offence is ice cold, but against a bad Chargers’ secondary O’Connell should be able to find open receivers. The Raiders are going to be forced to let him throw it frequently if Jacobs can’t go or is limited in this game, which means he has a chance to easily eclipse that passing-yardage total. Consider taking the over on 204.5 passing yards.
- The Raiders figure to put plenty of men near the line of scrimmage to get copious pressure on Stick, but that also will make them tough against the run. The Chargers might test the ground game, but ultimately they’ll have to trust Stick to throw the ball at least occasionally. When he does, expect him to dump it down to Ekeler often, which means the latter could easily exceed his receiving-yards total of 27.5 yards in this one.