Thursday Night Football: Chargers vs. Raiders Betting Picks
NFL Week 15 kicks off with an AFC West showdown between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders. After starting the season 6-3, the Raiders have dropped three of their last four games, making this a must-win for Jon Gruden and Derek Carr on Thursday Night Football.
Thursday Night Football Odds: Chargers vs. Raiders
As desperate as the Raiders might be for a victory, the NFL odds for this game suggest a win won’t come easy. The Raiders are favored by merely a field goal at online sports betting sites. The Chargers, despite Anthony Lynn’s coaching deficiencies, have proven capable of playing competitively with some of the best teams in the NFL. They only have four wins to their name, but the Chargers finished within a possession of the Chiefs, Bucs and Saints this season.
The rise of rookie Justin Herbert, who is likely to exceed the 4K passing mark and could reach 30 touchdowns by the season’s end, has been one of the biggest surprises this season. Herbert’s production has made him the prohibitive favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. At PointsBet, you currently have to risk $100 to win $10 on a Herbert OROY bet.
It just so happens Herbert had one of his better performances during his Raiders-Chargers debut. In Week 9, Herbert threw for 326 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions while adding 24 yards rushing against the Raiders. Nine of Herbert’s 28 completions were to Keenan Allen, who averaged 11.5 yards per reception. Herbert also connected with Mike Williams five times for 81 yards, while running backs Joshua Kelley and Kalen Ballage combined for seven receptions from the backfield.
Though Herbert moved the ball through the air, passing as much as the Chargers did may have been the wrong decision considering the Raiders rank dead last in DVOA against the run. Not so surprisingly, the Raiders have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season, which should set up well for Austin Ekeler …that is, if he can play.
Chargers’ Injury Bug: Allen, Williams, Henry & Ekeler Limited
Ekeler, who missed the first game against the Raiders, is back on the injury report ahead of Thursday Night Football after presumably aggravating his quadricep during the Chargers’ 20-17 win over the Falcons. Joining Ekeler on the Chargers’ injury report are teammates Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and Keenan Allen. The quartet of offensive weapons make up the bulk of Los Angeles’ scoring arsenal, and all four players were limited during Tuesday’s practice. Luckily, Ekeler seems to be trending in the right direction, as the running back took to Twitch to ease any concerns, telling fans that he will, in fact, be good to go against the Raiders this time. Williams, whose back injury limited him to only two snaps against the Falcons, is in the most danger of sitting out.
Similarly, the Raiders have injury concerns of their own, and no, I’m not referring to Henry Ruggs recent placement on the Reserve/Covid list. Oakland’s defense could be without three starters as Clenen Ferrell, Nicholas Morrow and Jonathan Abram are all in danger of missing Week 15’s quick turnaround. If so, that would leave an already inferior defense without their starting safety, linebacker and defensive end.
Injury Update (12/17): The Chargers are treating both Williams and Allen as “true game-time decisions” but Henry and Ekeler appear good to go. In fact, Henry had his injury designation removed after practicing on Wednesday.
Thursday Night Football Picks: Chargers vs. Raiders
Given the short week and the uncertainty surrounding injuries to key players, I can’t advise picking the Chargers quite yet. Still more than 24 hours before kickoff at the time of this writing, I think the current Chargers-Raiders spread is pretty efficient, assuming Ekeler, Allen, and Henry will all be active. We don’t know what exactly the odds are of those guys missing the game, but it’s certainly non-zero that at least one of them is absent.
The Raiders defense has allowed more than their fair share of points, which is one of the reasons this is the highest point total (Over/Under 53) of Week 15. However, the Chargers could lean on the run more than usual if one or more of Herbert’s pass-catchers are inactive. As pointed out previously, running the ball against the Raiders isn’t the worst idea anyway. And if the Chargers do emphasize handing the ball off on Thursday night, we might see the pace drop for a Chargers offense that currently leads the NFL in average plays per game.
That’s what I’m banking on by betting Under 53 points.
Though I won’t be cheering for touchdowns myself, you should at least be rooting for one: Sign up at BetMGM and bet $1 to win $100 if any team scores a touchdown on Thursday Night Football!
Chargers-Raiders Player Props
All player props are from BetMGM and accurate as of 9am ET Thursday.
Austin Ekeler OVER 5.5 Receptions (-110) – Ekeler has been targeted an absurd 34 times since returning from injury in Week 12. That means he’s averaging over 11 targets per game during that span. Against Buffalo, Ekeler caught 11-of-16 targets and he was a perfect 9-for-9 against the Falcons last Sunday. Entering Thursday night as underdogs and with several of their more vertical threats on the injury report, tonight is likely to be another game script that features a plethora of passes to the running back.
Guyton +2000 and Johnson +2000 First Touchdown – I want to take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding Allen and Williams by betting on the two receivers who will benefit most if Allen and Williams are ruled inactive. Without a doubt, that’s these two. Tyron Johnson caught 6-of-7 passes for 55 yards and found paydirt last week with Williams on the sideline. Guyton was less active but he has shown big-play ability on multiple occasions while scoring three touchdowns through the first seven weeks of the season.
Henry OVER 37.5 Yards (-115) – Another beneficiary of an Allen and/or Williams absence, Henry is already projected for 42 receiving yards with Allen projected for 7 receptions and 82 yards, per Derek Carty’s THE BLITZ.
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