Two weeks ago when the Las Vegas Raiders traveled to Buffalo, I wondered aloud whether it was better to face a team riding high — and in danger of overlooking their opponent — or a team in the depths who might be feeling a sense of desperation. In that case, the answer is pretty clear in hindsight — although with the 1-2 Chargers on the docket this weekend, Las Vegas is hoping that history won’t repeat itself.
The Chargers came into the season (as they have seemingly every season for the past few years) with playoff aspirations, and yet in typical Chargers fashion they appear destined to fall short of them. Yes, they have an elite quarterback in Justin Herbert — as well as elite players around him like Joey Bosa, Keenan Allen Derwin James and Khalil Mack — but whether it’s coaching or something else, they always end up underperforming.
So far this season it has been more of the same.
Against Miami in Week 1, the Chargers held a four-point lead with less than four minutes to go and lost. Week 2? They led by as many as 11 before losing to Tennessee in overtime. Last Sunday they escaped with a win, but only after a near-fiasco in which they failed to convert a 4th and 1 from their own 24 and gave Minnesota a golden opportunity to cash in on (which they failed to do).
For the Raiders, it’s back-to-back beatdowns in the rearview mirror. After beating the lowly Broncos in Week 1, they got their doors blown off in Buffalo before trailing by 16 in the fourth quarter against the Steelers at home and losing by five after some questionable decision-making from Josh McDaniels.
The reality is that it’s only Week 4, and yet for both teams — and maybe more for the Raiders specifically — this game feels like an absolute must-win if the goal is to be competitive. If Las Vegas falls to 1-4, I just don’t see how they would find the firepower on offense and defense to climb out of that hole (not to mention the postgame quotes might continue to get ugly).
With all this in mind, let’s try to keep the heater rolling with our weekly picks via BetOnline.AG.
Last week: 5-0, +4.77 units (Season: 10-5, +7.92 units)
Joshua Palmer OVER 3.5 receptions (-140)
With Mike Williams out, someone needs to step up for the Chargers and ease the burden on Keenan Allen — and my guess is Palmer is that guy. He finished with 7 targets last week, and if he picks off a couple of the targets that went to Williams last week (8), I don’t see how he doesn’t convert at least four of those for catches. To be honest, I might even get creative here and find an alternate line with some plus money if one were available.
Kenneth Murray OVER 5.5 tackles (-125)
The Raiders are definitely going to try to establish the run on Sunday — and that means lots of running the ball right at the Chargers linebacker. He finished with 9 tackles last week and has 22 total in three games — so give me a comfortable over here.
Chargers OVER 27.5 points (-120)
Even without Mike Williams and Austin Ekeler (who is listed as doubtful), the Chargers offense is legit, and I think they’re going to score at will on Sunday. The Raiders defense was supposed to be improved, but so far we haven’t seen that — giving up 23 points to one of the worst offenses in the league last weekend was embarrassing — and so I think this number gets big. The only fear I have is whether the Raiders offense can keep up and make this a shootout.
First half total: OVER 23.5 (-115)
The Raiders typically script up a good opening drive and move the ball, so give me an exciting first half from both teams before things slow down. 17-10 at the half gets us to this number, and that feels pretty doable.
Chargers -7 (+102)
You probably guessed it if you made it this far, but I think the Chargers win — and I think they might win big, which is why I’m going with an alternate line here. The Raiders offense has been without Jimmy Garoppolo all week as he has progressed through concussion protocol — and if he can’t go (which he won’t), then I think this one gets really ugly. Even if he can, they’ll be out of rhythm much of the day, and their defense won’t get many stops, so give me the Chargers to win this one 38-28.