Thursday Night Football kicks off its 2011 campaign with an intriguing divisional clash featuring a battle for first place between the visiting Oakland Raiders, and the enigmatic San Diego Chargers. Both teams are currently situated at .500 each boasting 4-4 records through 8 games, and are mired in a 3-way tie with the Kansas City Chiefs as well. It is a pivotal game, and an intriguing match-up featuring quarterbacks who dominated 5 years ago, but have recently fallen on hard times. Both Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer have suddenly become interception machines, and if their ill-advised throws persist, it could make for quite the turnover-laden game.
Another component to this match-up is injury statuses for both squads. For the Raiders, they’ve been bit by the injury bug as hard as anyone with their MVP running back Darren McFadden having to sit out his second-straight game with a lingering ankle sprain. Currently he is still restricted to crutches and a walking boot. It’s horrible news for Oakland who began the season amid much hope and promise. The man dubbed ‘Run DMC’ is a premier back in the game and not having him in the line-up forces the recently un-retired Carson Palmer to extend beyond his current comfort level and will his new team to victory. For the Chargers, they’re expected to get some relief tonight in the form of returning running back Ryan Matthews, though key wide-out Malcolm Floyd is still expected to remain on the sidelines.
Raiders vs. Chargers Spread, Line, and Betting Odds:
Oakland Raiders +7 (-110)
@ San Diego Chargers -7 (-110)
Over 47.5 (-110)
Under 47.5 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bodog.com <- Get 10% of your first deposit added FREE!
Raiders vs. Chargers Pick:
Unfortunately for San Diego it seems as if yet again they will be resigned to another underwhelming season characterized by key players underachieving and disarray exuded from the coaching staff down to the players. Nobody doubts the talent levels on this squad, but the manner in which they’ve played this season has simply been incomprehensible. That said, you have to expect their fortunes are about to be reversed against a depleted, and much inferior Oakland side. Though the Chargers got dominated by Green Bay last week, they did show some gumption their game in fighting back late to get within seven points. Sure Rivers has struggled, but he is too solid of a quarterback for these troubles to persist, or at least not cost him against a lowly Raiders squad.
Oakland meanwhile looked inconsistent for much of the game last week, and ultimately lost by two touchdowns to an awful Denver team. Carson Palmer has been shaky and will need more time to re-adjust to game action after sitting out the first half of the season. He has thrown a staggering 6 interceptions in just 56 pass attempts, and this isn’t good news considering he’ll be facing a Chargers’ secondary which features Eric Weddle – currently leading the NFL with 5 picks.
I expect this to be a sloppy game in which for much of it, neither team looks like it will want to win, akin to the current divisional situation. But in front of a restless home crowd, expect San Diego’s passing attack to take over. They have the potential to be lethal in that regard with dominant receivers, as well as the versatile Matthews emerging from the backfield. When he’s on his game, Rivers can be awesome, and if this is the week he finally breaks out of his slump, it could be trouble for a statistically brutal Raiders defense. Not to say the Chargers defensive unit is that much better, but look for San Diego’s offense to do a better job of exploiting the opposing team’s defensive deficiencies.
Oakland is 20th in the league in pass defense and has given up 14 touchdowns through the air, tied for 3rd-worst in the NFL. When you consider the statistics top receiver Vincent Jackson put up last week, it’s hard to envision anyone in the Oakland secondary stopping him. Moreover, Denver ran all over Oakland last week and with the Matthews and Tolbert connection back on board for San Diego, look for the Chargers to experience little resistance in their quest to keep the chains moving.
This is a very tough situation for the Raiders, as you get the sense a lot of their impressive early season performances are about to be forgotten with their recent embarrassing ones. Their defense is coming off giving up 300 yards, and 7.1 yards per carry, and should be worn out with such a quick turnaround. Moreover, the omission of McFadden from the Oakland backfield is simply irrecoverable, and though Michael Bush is capable and should experience some success, it won’t be nearly enough to outscore a San Diego team clamouring to quiet the doubters.
PICK = Chargers -7 **Make sure you enter your details at the top of this page to get all of our NFL picks via email**