Oakland Raiders (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS) vs. San Diego Chargers (5-8 SU, 7-6 ATS)
Week 15 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: OAK -3/SD +3
Over/Under Total: 50.5
In AFC West action, the Oakland Raiders come to Qualcomm Stadium to face the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Oakland is looking to bounce back from a Thursday Night Football loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, a loss that broke a 6-game win streak. It was a costly one, with the season sweep loss to the Chiefs meaning the Raiders need to beat KC outright in the standings to win the division—something that might not be that easy. They look forward to getting back on the winning track this week in San Diego. The Chargers had another tough week, suffering a 28-16 road loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. In addition to falling to 5-8, a few costly injuries look to have robbed them of whatever remaining pep they may have had.
These teams already played this season, as AFC West division rivals. On October 9, the Raiders won, 34-31, in a tough game. Derek Carr was over 300 yards with Amari Cooper having a huge day. But as has often been the case this season, the Raiders played well late in the game, with their defense containing a San Diego offense that was on fire for the first half and change of the game. Time and again, this season, the Raiders have won with late-game dramatics. It has become a key asset to the Raiders, as there are going to be a lot of close games in this league. When things are on the line, the Raiders seem to be at their best.
Derek Carr has been excellent this season. He has a winning vibe, is as clutch as they come, and he makes the most of his weapons. Their offense offers balance—7th in rushing offense and 8th through the air. Carr has 3492 yards with 24 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. The rushing attack added some variety this season. Along with Latavius Murray, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington have made nice contributions. All three backs have also been making their mark aerially, though the passing game is led by Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Cooper is already over 1000 and Crabtree should join him by season's end. Seth Roberts has been a clutch presence, with most of his receptions being critical ones. Throw in Clive Walford, Jamize Olawale, and others and there are a lot of different weapons on this side of the ball.
The Oakland defense is ranked 30th in total defense, but that hardly tells the whole story. While Carr has been key and seems to thrive in late-game scenarios, the defense has followed suit. While exploitable, they play at their best when the game is on the line. And they can make plays. Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack have developed a nice 1-2 punch in the pass-rush. Mack is one of those kinds of defensive playmakers that can change the course of a game, as he's done before this season. The secondary is making plays and as a whole, they're far more-formidable than their individual parts would suggest. They've at least become a serviceable unit, following an early-season stretch where they were pretty awful.
Oakland is facing a difficult final stretch to the season, with three of their last 4 games coming on the road. It's a time of the season where the Raiders could start to fade out a little bit. But it took a lot to turn this team around and finishing strong should be a good motivator, as they don't want to squander the good work they've created. At the same time, they are not a team built to dominate, with the majority of their wins being close ones. While it speaks volumes of a team to pull out so many close wins, it also suggests that they're not built to blow teams away. Still, it's worth noting that their loss to KC on Thursday was their first loss on the road this whole season.
The Chargers spent the first part of the season looking like a team that could break through. They lost a ton of close games, usually with their shaky late-game play being the culprit. But after two straight losses, it's clear that this is just going to be another down year for the Chargers. The injuries have been never-ending. If a player has been helping the Chargers, he usually ends up on IR. On Sunday, Melvin Gordon was carted off with a hip injury, while rookie Joey Bosa suffered a head/neck injury and had to leave the game. Their statuses for this game are unknown as of press time. The pair had been some of the lone shining lights on this team.
Making it worse for San Diego is the sudden collapse in form of quarterback Philip Rivers. In the last 6 games, he has thrown 13 interceptions. He also fumbled twice on Sunday, in addition to throwing three picks. On one hand, Rivers has done well to keep the Chargers' offense afloat this season with so many costly injuries. But with the receivers stepping up and the performance this season of Melvin Gordon, the performance of Rivers over the course of the last 6 games has been a key part of this team's losing form lately. After all their losses being of the close variety and by a one-score margin, they never looked the winner against the Panthers.
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The defense has been snake-bitten by injuries. And on Sunday, one of the best areas of promise was injured, with Bosa going down. Melvin Ingram went down. It never ends. If they had even been somewhat close to full-power this season, the defense may have been a vastly-improved group. They added some key pieces and only their depth has allowed them to still remain even a middling "D." You could literally pluck names from their injury list and come up with a really good defense. As it is, they're just trying to make it work and keep things from getting out-of-hand.
The Chargers seemed to hit a spiritual low on Sunday against the Panthers, a team that has their own issues this season. At the same time, they're not a team that appears to have given up and whatever fire they lacked on the road against a Panthers team with whom they have no real connection should be replaced with more energy against their longtime rival Oakland. The Raiders are pining to get back on the winning track, but it's been a long time since an Oakland vs. San Diego game wasn't at least somewhat close. Be that as it may, the Raiders' urgency should resonate this week. I'm taking Oakland.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Oakland Raiders minus 3 points. Did you know... that you could be wagering on the San Diego vs. Oakland game at discounted odds? There's a better than good chance that you're laying -110 odds (or more) with your book. Stop overpaying TODAY by making the switch to 5Dimes Sportsbook! You will be so glad that you did!