Los Angeles Chargers (4-5) at Oakland Raiders (4-4)
The Chargers had an impressive 26-11 victory over the Packers last week, but that wasn’t necessarily surprising. The Chargers, who went 12-4 last season, are as healthy as they’ve been all season. Left tackle Russell Okung, edge defender Melvin Ingram, and tight end Hunter Henry all healthy back healthy and playing well after missing significant time, leaving safety Derwin James as their only key injury absence.
James was one of the top safeties in the league last season, but even without him the Chargers are a playoff caliber team. They rank 12th in my roster rankings and, despite their early season injuries, the Chargers actually rank 11th in first down rate differential on the season at +2.54%, albeit against an easy schedule. With all five of their losses coming by a touchdown or less, the Chargers rank 13th in point differential at +15, despite not benefiting from turnovers, at -3.
The most impressive part of the Chargers’ win was that they played so well at home, in front of a crowd that had so many Packers fans that the game might as well have been in Lambeau. The Chargers have underwhelmed at home since moving to Los Angeles, where they have no fans, going 7-12-1 ATS, but the flip side of that is they’ve traveled well, going 14-6-2 ATS away from Los Angeles.
Despite the Chargers’ impressive win, this line has not moved significantly in the past week, going from Oakland -2.5 on the early line last week to Los Angeles -1 this week, which barely matters because only about 8% of games are decided by 2 points or fewer. Using 1 point for homefield advantage instead of the standard 3 points because the Chargers travel so well, this line suggests that the Chargers are only a couple points better than the Raiders, which I disagree with.
While the Chargers are a playoff caliber team now that they are healthier, the Raiders still are a middling team at best, ranking 24th in point differential at -34 and 26th in first down rate differential at -3.98%. They’ve faced a tougher schedule than the Chargers and could have their starting five offensive linemen together for this game for the first time all season if center Rodney Hudson can return from a one-game absence, but both Hudson and right tackle Trent Brown are dealing with injuries that could limit them or be re-aggravated mid-game. Their defense, meanwhile, is still horrendous, allowing the second highest first down rate differential in the league at 41.53%. I have these two teams about four points apart, suggesting the Chargers should be favored by a field goal on the road (and by five points if this game was in Los Angeles). In a game the Chargers just need to win to cover, they’re worth a small bet this week.
Los Angeles Chargers 23 Oakland Raiders 20
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -1