Scott Shapiro's Thursday Night Football preview: Chargers-Raiders
After a loss on Thursday night to get the week started, and then a terrible call with Jacksonville in their game in London against the Texans, I was pleased to come away with a break-even Week 9. It could have been even better had Seahawks kicker Jason Myers made his 40-yard field goal instead of sending the game to overtime, but you take the good with the bad when predicting games in the NFL.
Pigskin fans get a strong trio of games in prime time for Week 10, including an important AFC West clash in Oakland to get the slate rolling Thursday night.
Los Angeles Chargers
Over 48.5 (-112)
Under 48.5 (-108)
The Chargers have taken a step back in 2019, after a 12-4 record and a trip to the AFC Divisional Playoffs a year ago, but much of that can be attributed to injuries and close losses. Los Angeles was fortunate to win their season opener in overtime against the Colts and then lost five of their next six, with the lone victory coming in Week 4 against the lowly Dolphins. However, over the past two weeks, the Chargers have played much better and now are back in the playoff hunt with seven games to play.
The return of Hunter Henry, who missed time with a tibial plateau fracture in his knee, and finally getting the running game going has been important, but it is the defense over the last two contests that has put Los Angeles back in the playoff picture. The Chargers played excellent red-zone defense in Week 8, which allowed them to come away with an ugly 17-16 win in Chicago, and then completely stymied the red-hot Packers offense Sunday, in their dominating 26-11 victory. The Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram both had 1 1/2 sacks in the huge home win and appear ready to dominate over the second half of the year.
I was not high at all on the Raiders coming into the season, but to the credit of head coach Jon Gruden and his staff, they have been much better than expected. They have overcome the Antonio Brown drama, as well as a brutal early schedule, and sit at 4-4 heading into one of their most important games in recent history.
Quarterback Derek Carr had a terrible 2018 in his first year under Gruden, but has played well through the first half of 2019. Despite limited options on the outside, the Raiders have found a way to move the ball consistently via the league’s sixth-best rushing attack (136.4 yards per game). It appears they found a good one in rookie running back Josh Jacobs. The former Alabama back ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns in their 31-24 win against Detroit. He will need another strong effort against the Chargers if Oakland is to make it two straight home wins.
The Chargers are a hard team to figure out at times, but like last year, they could be poised for a big run over the second half of the season. They will not get star safety Derwin James back into the lineup yet, but they are getting healthier in time to salvage their season. They have owned the Raiders of late, with four straight wins against Oakland, including two by double digits last season. I like their chances to make it five in a row.
Look for the Chargers passing attack to feast on the league’s worst pass defense early and grind the clock away with Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler late. It does not hurt that they have a reliable kicker back in Mike Badgley, who missed the first eight games with a groin injury.