Raiders Playoff Hopes Diminishing Ahead of Thursday Night Football Game vs Chargers
The NFL kicks off Week 15 with a Thursday Night Football game from Las Vegas as the Raiders (7-6) host the Chargers (4-9). The leading online sportsbooks are expecting a big handle despite two teams that are likely going to miss the playoffs. The Raiders are in 'must win' mode with three wins needed in the final three weeks along with some significant help to make the playoffs.
Leading data driven analysis site FiveThirtyEight shows the Raiders chances to make the playoffs are just 15% as they take the field against the Chargers. I expected Miami (8-5) to fade down the stretch and the Dolphins to miss the playoffs, and a Raiders win against the Chargers will set up an elimination game next Saturday in Las Vegas when the Dolphins visit Vegas to tackle the Raiders.
Raiders vs Chargers Odds and Picks
But I believe the Raiders are going to have a tough time putting away the Chargers and staying afloat in the AFC playoff picture. Let's add the Chargers (+3, even or +3.5 at -120) to our weekly 'Dog log with a separate play on these pages for Week 15. Hopefully we'll avoid the late game and last play disaster the Browns suffered against the Ravens in Week 14 Monday Night Football.
William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich told me he expects a huge handle Thursday night and that "Early betting is all on Raiders." William Hill opened the Raiders -3 and moved up to -3.5. However, with some injury news, the line is back to Raiders -3 (-120) and select online sportsbooks still offer -3.5.
I outline some of the situations surrounding Thursday's Raiders and Chargers game in my Thursday Night Football betting preview at Forbes. That includes the Raiders firing of their defensive coordinator this week after getting crushed by the Colts, 44-27. Longtime NFL coach and Raiders defensive line coach Rod Marinelli takes over as defensive coordinator. But problems persist for the Raiders defense as four defensive starters are out and soon to be NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year QB Justin Herbert is likely in for another solid game against the Raiders. Herbert is averaging 289 passing yards per game as a rookie - good for No. 4 in the NFL this season. He needs three TD passes to reach 28 for the season and set the new NFL rookie touchdown pass record.
Herbert is worth watching as is Raiders QB Derek Carr, who is having a very solid season leading the Silver and Black offense. But the Chargers are better than their 4-9 record, and unfortunately for AFC West teams, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn may be next on the firing line at season's end. The Chargers have out-gained nine opponents this season including the Raiders 440-320 in a 31-26 Vegas victory in Week 9. That game was one of a handful of head scratchers for Anthony Lynn and the Chargers, as was this circus act at the end of the first half last Sunday against the Falcons. Check out that short YouTube clip and you'll understand why the Chargers special teams (and coach Lynn) rank at the bottom of the NFL this season.
Raiders and Chargers Player Props
I've been chipping in and betting selected player props in recent weeks and posting them in updates at Forbes in Week 13 and prime time games on Thursday and Monday in Week 14. Three straight player prop winners and we'll add a pair here for your consideration and betting interests.
One I broke down in the update at Forbes is Chargers RB Austin Ekeler 'over' 39.5 receiving yards. Seach for the best number as always as online sportsbooks post different numbers and move them more quickly with sharp bets and money. Ekeler has been a main target and focal point of the Chargers offense the past three weeks following his return to the lineup from the IR list. The Raiders defensive injuries combined with Herbert's willingness to target Ekeler in the passing game makes this a play worth catching and betting.
I'll also add another player prop and target a quarterback. Raiders rookie speed receiver Henry Ruggs will also miss the Chargers game as he was added to the COVID-19 list. That takes away QB Derek Carr's top vertical threat. Carr passed for a just 160 yards in Week 9 against the Chargers as the Raiders had a perfectly balanced 160 rushing yards as well. The Chargers limited the Raiders to just 50 offensive plays while controlling the ball, clock and chains for 35 minutes.
Los Angeles' pass defense ranks top-7 in the league allowing 217 yards per game but just 171 per game over their last three contests. The Raiders will try to maintain ball control with their strength in the running game with Josh Jacobs and attempt to keep their decimated defense off the field. The Raiders have lost 2-of-3 games when Carr passed at least 40 times this season, and only managed to beat the Jets in one of those on the 'Miracle in the Meadowlands' Hail Mary from Carr to Ruggs. Carr has passed the ball 92 times the past two weeks, and on a short week, coach Gruden knows that many passes is not the winning formula. I expect more balance on offense for the Raiders relying on their strength in the running game with Josh Jacobs.
Carr's passing yards is set at 270.5 (BetMGM), and that's too high in my projections. Thus, we'll play play Derek Carr under 270.5 passing yards.
Back with more underdog plays for Week 15 as we also have NFL games on Saturday starting this week and next week with the Raiders hosting the Dolphins. The push towards the playoffs continues, but unfortunately for Raider Nation, the odds are not in Vegas' favor.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay