You know it’s starting to get near the stretch run of the NFL season when the games start arriving weekly on Thursday night’s on the NFL Network—which I don’t get—and that’s the case here in Week 10 as the Oakland Raiders visit the San Diego Chargers in a big AFC West matchup.
Just a few weeks ago both teams looked like potential playoff clubs, but now the AFC West title is like a hot potato in that no one appears to want it with the Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and Chargers all at 4-4 and a game ahead of the Denver Broncos.
The Raiders clearly announced they were going all in this season when after losing starting quarterback Jason Campbell to a broken collarbone in Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns, Oakland gave up potentially two first-round picks to get Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Raiders expected the former No. 1 overall pick to make a difference, and he has—in a bad way.
Oakland has stunk it up in the two weeks since Palmer has been on the roster, losing at home to Kansas City and Denver. Remember that the Raiders were 6-0 against AFC West foes a year ago.
Palmer didn’t start against the Chiefs, but came in after halftime and threw three picks as Oakland was blanked. Last week, he did throw for 332 yards and three scores, but he also had three more picks in a 38-24 loss to the Broncos.
The Raiders’ run defense was gashed for 299 yards (7.8 yards per carry), the highest output for Denver in 11 years. Opponents’ running backs are averaging 5.2 yards per carry this season vs. Oakland.
San Diego seemed to have figured out how to avoid slow starts under Norv Turner, but it has gone more into the tank in losing three straight, although it was to three 2010 playoff teams and all by a touchdown or less.
Last week, in a 45-38 home shootout against the Green Bay Packers, Philip Rivers had 385 yards and four scores, but his turnover problems continued with three more picks, including two returned for scores. Rivers’ 14 interceptions and 17 total turnovers lead the NFL.
Raiders at Chargers Betting Storylines
There’s definitely some key injury news here, the biggest being that Raiders running back Darren McFadden, who was the best at his position in the league earlier this season, is expected to sit out for the second straight game due to a strained foot. It’s no coincidence that Oakland has lost both games since McFadden left early in that shutout loss to Kansas City, and he didn’t play Sunday.
Michael Bush should start again; he had 96 yards on 16 carries in the loss to Denver. He has found the end zone in three of the past four Raiders-Chargers games.
On defense, it’s not yet clear if starting linebackers Rolando McClain will be able to go after sitting out Sunday.
San Diego’s top back, Ryan Mathews, is on target to return after sitting out the Packers loss with a groin injury. But No. 2 receiver Malcom Floyd, who also sat out against the Packers, is going to sit again with his hip injury.
Guard Kris Dielman and linebacker Shaun Phillips will miss their third straight game for San Diego. Cornerback Antoine Cason will recover his starting spot from Marcus Gilchrist, who has struggled starting in Cason’s place the past two games. Gilchrist was benched late against the Packers.
One thing Oakland must fix, other than run defense, is penalties. The Raiders had 15 penalties for 130 yards Sunday.
With 84 penalties for 730 yards this season, they are on pace for 168 penalties and 1,460 penalty yards, which would shatter both team (156 penalties and 1,276 penalty yards) and NFL records (158 penalties and 1,304 penalty yards by the Chiefs in 1998).
Raiders at Chargers Betting Odds and Trends
San Diego opened as a seven-point favorite with the total at 47.5 on NFL odds. About 70 percent of the lean is on the Bolts. Oakland is 5-3 against the spread this season and 3-0 on road. San Diego is 2-6 ATS and 1-3 at home. Both are 4-4 on over/under.
The Raiders are 5-1 against the spread in past six as a dog and the Bolts have failed to cover the spread in their past five following a loss. The under is 4-1 in Raiders’ past five overall. The under is 7-0 in the Bolts’ past seven as a home favorite.
The Raiders have covered the spread past four meetings.
NFL Picks: Raiders at Chargers Betting Preview
The Chargers owned this series, winning 13 straight before getting swept a season ago. Until their 23-20 defeat of the Broncos in the first Monday Night Football game of this season, the Raiders had lost 11 straight prime time games.
I would probably have leaned San Diego here regardless, but not getting McFadden back is a huge blow for Oakland. So I would give the points although it will probably end up being a push. Also take the under.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.