Chargers-Raiders best bets: How we're betting the regular-season finale
Despite the regular season ending a week later this year, we're still getting an early taste of playoff football with a do-or-die game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders in which the winner clinches a postseason berth.
Here's how we're betting Chargers-Raiders:
C Jackson Cowart: Chargers -3
I can see the appeal of the contrarian bet here on the Raiders, who have surprised all year in spots like this. But sometimes, in a winner-take-all game of this magnitude, you just need to bet the better team.
There's little question which side that is. The Chargers rank 10th in weighted DVOA with a top-five offense led by star QB Justin Herbert, who threw three TDs against this Las Vegas defense in a 28-14 win in early October.
The Raiders, meanwhile, own below-average marks on offense and defense, per DVOA, and are one of two teams with a winning record (9-7) despite a negative point differential (-68). And while the surface stats suggest a serviceable pass defense, Las Vegas has allowed the NFL's seventh-highest passer rating (98.3) as well as a 26-5 TD-INT ratio, the worst in the league.
All that is to say that if Herbert is dealing on Sunday night, there's little the Raiders can do to stop him, and Las Vegas hasn't shown enough offensively to keep pace if this game heats up early. At a relatively short price, I'm gladly backing the Chargers here in a must-win spot.
Alex Moretto: Raiders +3
This is a game I'd much rather sit back and enjoy than have any significant investment in. I've been bullish for a while now with my opinion that the Raiders aren't a good football team, but they've found some late magic with Rich Bisaccia, who has done well in the interim role. The Chargers are the more talented team with the better quarterback and skill players, but they've been plagued by inconsistencies. Plus, this is a huge game for a young quarterback and rookie head coach.
Obviously, we should expect a playoff-type atmosphere here, and if this line was closer to a pick, it would be Chargers or nothing for me. However, in what will likely be a closely contested game that comes down to the final minutes, I'll take the three points and be content.
Matt Russell: Under 48.5
In the first meeting - a prime-time game in which the Raiders had the majority of the fans - Las Vegas averaged just 3.8 yards per play. That was with Henry Ruggs and a healthy Darren Waller. The Chargers' Cover 3 zone defense takes away Derek Carr's best attributes: taking shots against man coverage and reading blitzes.
Since Oct. 24, the Raiders have scored 16, 14, 13, 36, 15, nine, 16, seven, and 23 points in their games. The 36-point outlier was on Thanksgiving when Carr capitalized on the Cowboys stubbornly staying with man-to-man coverage, even as they were repeatedly burned with shots downfield.
With the Raiders more likely to be contained by the Chargers, Los Angeles will play offense accordingly. We saw Brandon Staley turn to a conservative approach last week against the Broncos, deciding to kick field goals because he knew that any accumulation of points would be good enough to win.
In that first matchup with Las Vegas, the Chargers slowly racked up 25 first downs and 75 total plays to wear down the Raiders. There's no reason they can't do the same thing on Sunday night and win without cracking 28 points.