The San Diego Chargers will make the short trip to Oakland, where both teams will conclude their 2011 campaign. The Chargers playoff hopes were dashed last week with a deflating loss to the Lions. The Raiders on the other hand, are still very well alive. There are several scenarios that can happen for the Raiders to either get a wild-card, or clinch the division. To win the division, the Raiders will need to beat the Chargers, and hope for a Broncos loss. The Raiders can also receive a wild-card berth with a win, Bengals loss, and either Titans loss or Jets win. It may seem a little convoluted, but one thing is true, the Raiders certainly want to win this game. However, after a lackluster season, the Chargers will want to end the season on a high note by defeating their cross-town rival.
Two weeks ago the Chargers absolutely throttled the Ravens, 34-14, in primetime. It seemed at that point the Chargers were going to make a run late and sneak into the playoffs. After all, they were beginning to get healthy, and looked completely unstoppable with Philip Rivers dissecting a stout defense. Last week, however, against the Lions, the Chargers came out completely flat and got steamrolled 38-10. There was never a sense of urgency by Norv Turner, or Chargers personnel. Perhaps it was because they didn’t want to be in Detroit on New Year’s Eve, but whatever way you spin it, it cut San Diego out of the playoff picture and propelled the Lions in. As their record indicates (7-8), they have been up-and-down all season long. The inconsistency will inevitably cost Norv Turner his head coaching job at the end of the year. With the amount of talent loaded on this Chargers roster, there is no excuse for going 7-8. On the bright side, Philip Rivers only needs 186 passing yards to become the fifth player in NFL history with back-to-back 4,500-yard seasons. The problem with Rivers has been taking care of the football, several games the Chargers should have won this year, were coughed away due to a Rivers turnover. Sure, Rivers has 24 TDs and 4,314 passing yards, but he also has 19 INTs and 7 fumbles.
The Raiders pass defense can be exploited with ease (25th), allowing 247.5 yards a game. In the last 3 games, the Raiders defense has allowed 29 points, surrendering 310 yards in the air, and 419 overall. The offense has been sputtering as well, only scoring an average of 19 points in those matchups. In fact, the only game in the last four-weeks the Raiders have scored over 20 points was against the Lions at home two weeks ago. The Lions were decimated with injuries in the secondary, so scoring 27 points wasn’t a shocker. So, if you remove the Lions game, the Raiders have only average around 15 points a game their last 3. It is no big secret why they have struggled on offense recently: Darren McFadden is still on the sideline, and they haven’t played with a full repertoire of receivers in quite some time. McFadden is listed as doubtful, so don’t expect him to suit up. Furthermore, receiver Jacoby Jones is questionable with a foot injury, which would once again prevent the Raiders from having a full arsenal for quarterback Carson Palmer to work with. Speedster receiver Denarius Moore, who has been battling injuries as well, will line up opposite Darrius Heyward-Bey. Outside of their uninspired performance last week, the Chargers have been difficult to throw on this season (10th), allowing 211.6 yards a game.
Chargers vs. Raiders Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
San Diego Chargers +3
@Oakland Raiders -3
Over 47 (-110)
Under 47 (-110)
Chargers vs. Raiders Pick:
The Chargers find themselves in a similar position to last year. In a must win scenario against the Bengals in week 16, the Chargers playoff hopes were over with a loss. Conversely, the next week in a meaningless affair, the Chargers won convincingly against the Broncos. Sure, the Raiders need a win, but needing a win doesn’t always equate to a W. The Chargers will come into this one feeling loose with no pressure to speak of. Consequently, I can see the Raiders coming up short, with Carson Palmer making an array of mistakes. Also, since this is a must win game for the Raiders, I foresee them being a little jittery and continue to commit a number of penalties. In fact, the Raiders only need 11 more yards to break the record of 1,304 penalty yards set by the Chiefs in 1998.
In the end, I expect Philip Rivers to move the ball with effectiveness. There’s no doubt that Rivers is embarrassed after last week’s outing, and wants to end the season on a positive note. Also, the Chargers won’t need to travel across the country to get to Oakland, unlike last week on Christmas Eve in Detroit. I believe the Chargers are a better team than what their record indicates. If they want to play, they can throttle almost any team in the league. I am willing to bet that the Chargers won’t lay a dud in Norv Turner’s last game as head coach. Expect the Chargers to take advantage of the 29th best defense in the NFL. Take the 3 points here.
PICK = Chargers +3