The Chargers are one of my top contenders for the Super Bowl, bringing back every key player from an offense that ranked 3rd in offensive efficiency last season and drastically improving a defense that ranked just 24th in defensive efficiency a year ago by adding cornerback JC Jackson and edge defender Khalil Mack, both among the best players in the league at their respective positions and huge upgrades on the players they are replacing.
The Raiders made some splashy additions as well, adding edge defender Chandler Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams, but they also lost top cornerback Casey Hayward and they’re starting from a lower base point, having a -65 point differential to +15 for the Chargers last season, only sneaking ahead of the Chargers for a playoff spot when they won their final four games by a combined 12 points and went 4-0 on the season in overtime games.
That being said, I am not going to be betting on the Chargers this week, for a few reasons. For one, JC Jackson is out with injury, so the Chargers’ new look defense won’t be at full strength. Even still, I have the Chargers six points better than the Raiders in my roster rankings, but they will essentially be playing a road game in their home stadium in this game, with the vast majority of fans in attendance likely to be Raiders fans. They’re also in a potential look ahead spot with a Thursday Night Football matchup with the Chiefs on deck, with favorites covering at just a 44.0% rate before Thursday Night Football historically.
This line is also higher than some might realize, with the Chargers favored by 3.5 points and 1 in 4 games decided by three points or fewer. For this reason, favorites of 3.5 points cover at a lower rate than any other favorites, 46.8%, as odds makers will often use 3.5 to trap bettors into betting the favorite, with bettors not realizing how high the line actually is. I’m still taking the Chargers for pick ‘em purposes because they’re a significantly better team even without JC Jackson, but I would need this line to drop down to three for the Chargers to be worth betting.
Los Angeles Chargers 26 Las Vegas Raiders 20
Pick against the spread: LA Chargers -3.5