Oakland Raiders (10-3) at San Diego Chargers (5-8)
The Raiders are 10-3, but are not nearly as good as their record suggests, as their record is largely the result of a 7-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less and a league best +15 turnover margin. Turnover margins tend to be very inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, as there’s no week-to-week correlation in turnover margin. Outside of those 15 plays, the Raiders have been a pretty average team this year and they are legitimately a few snaps away from being 7-6 or 6-7. In terms of first down rate differential, they rank just 21st in the league.
This game figures to be a lot tougher for the Raiders than people expect, as not only are the Raiders overrated, but the Chargers are underrated and in a great spot. Despite a 5-8 record, the Chargers have a positive point differential at +3, not far behind the Raiders at +38. That’s despite the fact that the Chargers are -5 in turnover margin on the season. They have 18 more first downs and 2 more offensive touchdowns than their opponents on the season and rank 5th in first down rate differential, significantly higher than the Raiders.
The Chargers will be missing starting running back Melvin Gordon in this game, a big loss considering the Chargers are down to 4th string running back Kenneth Farrow, an undrafted rookie, with backups Danny Woodhead and Darren Oliver already out for the season. However, the Raiders will be without top safety Karl Joseph, who has been one of the Raiders’ best defensive players this season and one of the top defensive rookies in the NFL, so it kind of cancels out.
Gordon’s injury certainly doesn’t warrant a line movement all the way from San Diego -1 to Oakland -3 in one week, especially when the Raiders lost in Kansas City last week. The Chargers also have no upcoming distractions with a trip to Cleveland on deck. They will almost definitely be road favorites in Cleveland and home underdogs are 81-44 ATS since 2002 before being road favorites. About 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less (including 4 of the Raiders’ 10 wins), so I’d put money on San Diego at 3, but I also like the Chargers’ chances of winning straight up.
San Diego Chargers 23 Oakland Raiders 20 Upset Pick +130
Pick against the spread: San Diego +3