Oakland Raiders (2-3) at San Diego Chargers (2-4)
The Chargers are 2-4, but they’re much better than their record, as they rank 9th in rate of moving the chains differential. They’ve only had a negative rate of moving the chains differential in 2 of 6 games, in Cincinnati and in Minnesota, two teams that are a combined 9-2. They won the chains battle in Green Bay last week, where it’s borderline impossible to win. The Chargers still lost the game by a touchdown, getting stopped on 4th down on the goal line at the last second, but it was still a very impressive performance, especially given that the Packers were going into a bye. The week prior, they lost at home to the Steelers, but they dominated the chains battle and could have easily won by 10+ if they didn’t throw a pick six, give up a long touchdown, and drop 3 interceptions. Aside from a few plays, they were clearly the better of those two teams.
The Chargers are banged up going into this one, with safety Eric Weddle, one of the best defensive players in the league, expected to miss this one. Tight end Antonio Gates could join him, after not practicing all week, meaning he’s probably on the doubtful side of questionable. However, they’ve been banged up all year. Cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett have both dealt with injury, as have offensive linemen King Dunlap and Orlando Franklin. Flowers and Verrett are fully healthy now and Dunlap and Franklin are expected to return this week, a huge boost for an offensive line that has struggled without them.
The Raiders, meanwhile, rank 15th in rate of moving the chains, much better than normal for this franchise, but still significantly behind San Diego. Plus, while the Chargers are arguably healthier now than they’ve been all season, the Raiders were dealt their first major injury blow of the season in their last game, losing Justin Tuck for the season. Tuck was such a huge part of a surprisingly strong Oakland front 7 and he’ll be very much missed. The Raiders deserve to be underdogs of more than 4, especially given that they have a tough test at home against the Jets next week, a game in which they are expected to be 3+ point home underdogs.
Teams are 71-116 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs of 3+ and 40-78 ATS over that same time period before being 4+ point home underdogs. The Raiders are not guaranteed to be 3+ point home underdogs, but, even if they aren’t, the logic still holds. They have a much tougher upcoming game than the Chargers, who go to Baltimore to face a Ravens team that could be 1-6 if they lose in Arizona as big underdogs this week. That difference could show on the field. There’s not enough here for me to put money on the Chargers, but they should be the right side.
San Diego Chargers 27 Oakland Raiders 20
Pick against the spread: San Diego -4