The Los Angeles Chargers aren’t going to the AFC playoffs, but maybe they can derive some satisfaction by preventing the Las Vegas Raiders from getting there.
The Chargers (4-9 SU, 4-7-2 ATS) and Raiders (7-6 SU & ATS) will meet in the Thursday Night NFL game on Fox, slated for an 8:20 PM ET kickoff at the brand-new Allegiant Stadium on the Vegas strip.
Sure, the Chargers would like to get some revenge for an earlier loss to the Raiders, which took place at SoFi Stadium (November 8).
That was a real heartbreaker, as the Chargers thought they had made a dramatic comeback with a four-yard TD pass from Justin Herbert to Donald Parham with one second left. Then the touchdown was reversed, which was the killer.
This Los Angeles team has suffered its share of disappointments, and blown some big leads. But there was probably no bigger downer than they suffered a couple of weeks ago, as they were shut out 45-0 by a New England Patriot team that got only 69 passing yards out of Cam Newton. That was a failure in all three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams.
As is often the custom in the NFL, the embarrassment was enough to bring out a special effort in the next week’s game, and the Bolts beat Atlanta 20-17 on a Michael Badgley field goal at final gun, which followed an interception of Matt Ryan.
The Chargers are out of the playoff race with a 4-9 record (4-7-2 against the spread) as the injury bug hit them again. But the silver lining around the black cloud was that they were able to accelerate the process of installing Herbert as the quarterback. Actually, it was kind of by accident….literally. Tyrod Taylor, who was expected to be the starter while Herbert learned the ropes, suffered cracked ribs in the opener, When he was being treated with a pain-killing shot, the doctor punctured his lung.
Yes, Taylor will have a grievance, but at the risk of sounding cold, this was a “happy accident” for the organization, because Herbert is firmly establishing himself. He’s had six 300-yard games and 25 touchdown passes. And there is no doubt that the Bolts picked the right guy in the first round.
Let’s take a look at the Thursday Night NFL odds as they are posted at BetOnline:
Las Vegas Raiders -3.5 (-106)
Los Angeles Chargers +3.5 (-114)
Over 53 Points -105
Under 53 Points -115
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn had promised Taylor that he would not lose his job because of an injury. But that is exactly what happened. That may have represented one of the few good decisions Lynn has made in a season where his team has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory too many times. The likelihood is that he’ll be fired at the end.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden didn’t wait in order to make a move on his coaching staff. After Sunday’s 44-27 loss to Indianapolis, he canned defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and replaced him with Rod Marinelli, who was already on staff as defensive line coach. Since, in Gruden’s words, Marinelli is bringing “a new approach,” we are curious as to how this is going to be implemented with just a day or two of preparation time.
A key player for the Chargers here is running back Austin Ekeler, who has returned from injury and made his presence felt. Last week against Atlanta, he had 79 rushing yards and 67 receiving yards. And we are mindful that the Raiders have given up more than 200 yards on the ground in each of the last two weeks – to the Colts and the winless Jets. We are also watching Ekeler’s status, because he tweaked his hamstring and was limited in practice early in the week.
One player you won’t see on the Las Vegas side is Henry Ruggs, the rookie receiver from Alabama who is Derek Carr’s legitimate deep threat, who has averaged 18 yards a catch. He is on the COVID-19 reserve list. So that’s a big blow.
Take note that the Chargers are seventh best in the league in yards allowed per drive and have forced punts on 40% of their opponents’ possessions. So they have a real defense, and are better than their record indicates. In this one, we vote for taking the points, and for the Chargers to get their “happy ending,” which might involve shutting the door on the Raiders’ playoff hopes.
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