Against all odds, the Oakland Raiders are clinging to the slimmest of playoff hopes as they prepare for an AFC West rivalry game in Week 16 against the Los Angeles Chargers. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:05 EST on Sunday, December 22 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Fans throughout California and various other markets can watch the game on CBS.
Current odds list the Chargers as 7-point favorites at home with an over/under of 45.5 points. Click here to get betting odds for every Week 16 NFL game.
The Raiders were literally booed off the field last week in what was the franchise’s last home game in Oakland before moving to Las Vegas next year. Jon Gruden’s team held a comfortable 16-3 lead deep into the third quarter, only to give up 17 unanswered points and lose to the Jaguars 20-16. The loss was Oakland’s fourth in a row, dropping them to 6-8 on the season after they were once 6-4.
Alas, there is a glimmer of hope, as the Raiders are not yet eliminated from playoff contention. To reach the postseason, Oakland will have to beat the Chargers and Broncos on the road the final two weeks of the season. They will also need the Steelers and Titans to lose both of their remaining games while hoping that the Browns and Colts both lose at least once in their final two games. Needless to say, the odds aren’t in their favor. Of course, nothing else matters if the Raiders can’t find a way to beat the Chargers on Sunday.
Speaking of the Chargers, they are officially out of the playoff picture. The Bolts suffered a 39-10 home defeat at the hands of the Vikings last week, quickly eliminating any good vibes from their 45-10 thrashing of Jacksonville the previous week. With four losses in their last five games, the Chargers are now 5-9 on the season.
The only thing left to fight for is avoiding a last-place finish in the AFC West. Los Angeles is currently tied with Denver at 5-9, but they lose the tiebreaker after getting swept by the Broncos this season. After this week’s home finale, the Chargers are on the road next week against the Chiefs. Without a win in at least one of their two remaining games, the Chargers will finish at the bottom of the AFC West for the third time in the last five years.
Of course, neither team should need much motivation in what will be the last Chargers-Raiders game as California rivals. Oakland managed to eke out a 26-24 win over the Chargers earlier this year, snapping a four-game losing streak in the rivalry. The Raiders will now attempt to earn their first road win in this series since the Chargers moved to Los Angeles and earn a sweep the Chargers for the first time since 2016.
I understand that the Raiders have been beyond dreadful in recent weeks, but a 7-point spread still seems like a lot in this game. The Chargers haven’t exactly been able to string together quality performances this season. In my opinion, this has all the makings of an ugly, low-scoring game, which would point to the Raiders beating the spread, if not stealing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The biggest obstacle to banking on the Chargers as 7-point favorites in Philip Rivers. While the overall numbers look good with over 4,000 passing yards, throwing 18 interceptions in 14 games is a big red flag. Most distressing is the fact that 11 of the 18 picks have come in the last five games, including three last week against the Vikings. The Chargers have only sporadically been able to establish a productive ground attack, leaving too much on the shoulders of the aging and increasingly turnover-prone Rivers.
Defensively, the Chargers have been solid for most of the season. The 39 points they gave up against Minnesota last week is largely an aberration brought about by seven Los Angeles turnovers. The L.A. defense has been otherwise solid for most of the season behind the pass-rushing duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
However, the Raiders have a strong counter for the L.A. pass rush. For starters, the Oakland offensive line is one of the best in the NFL at protecting the quarterback. The Raiders also have a productive rushing attack behind rookie Josh Jacobs to help prevent the Chargers from focusing solely on putting pressure on Derek Carr. Despite battling a shoulder injury, Jacobs gave the Raiders 89 yards on the ground last week against Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Carr has avoided some of the mistakes that have plagued Rivers the Chargers this year, limiting himself to just eight interceptions while also completing 70% of his passes.
Between Oakland’s running game and all of Rivers’ shortcomings, it’s hard to imagine the Chargers being able to seize control of this game. Quite frankly, neither team looks all that capable of winning a game right now, much less covering a touchdown. The first meeting between these teams was decided by two points and I envision a similar game, meaning the Raiders will at least beat the spread.