LA Chargers (9-7) at Las Vegas (9-7)
When: Sunday, January 9th 2022
Where: Allegiant Stadium,
Las Vegas, NV
Time: 8:20 ET | TV: NBC
Opening Odds: Los Angeles -2/47.5
It all comes down to the final NFL regular season game of the season for both the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders. The league flexed this game into the Sunday night slot because it’s the only win-or-go-home contest in the Week 18 schedule. Of course, things could get really interesting should the Indianapolis Colts get upset by the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier in the day. In that case, both the Chargers and Raiders could get in if they played to a tie. The Chargers bounced back from two straight losses – including an embarrassing setback at Houston – to upend Denver 34-13 at home to not only stay alive, but eliminate the Broncos in the process. Justin Herbert got the better of Derek Carr in a 28-14 Week 4 win over the Raiders. Herbert threw three first-half touchdowns, while Carr got a couple in the third quarter. Los Angeles comes in as a 3-point favorite with a total set at 49.
The Raiders have been challenged by several off-field instances this season, but have hung together and won their last three games to give themselves a shot at the postseason. It started with the resignation of head coach Jon Gruden, then the tragedy of a deadly car crash involving former wide receiver Henry Ruggs III and the release of cornerback Damon Arnette following a video that included death threats. Cornerback Nate Hobbs was arrested on a misdemeanor DUI charge and last week, former Raiders head coaching legend John Madden passed away. The last-second 33-yard field goal last week to give the Raiders a 23-20 victory over the favored Colts. Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (ribs) and tight end Darren Waller were limited in practice Wednesday. Jacobs is probable to go while Waller is listed as questionable.
In last week’s win over Denver, Herbert threw for 237 yards and two scores and his 35 total TDs on the season are a franchise record. Austin Ekeler returned from COVID protocols and totaled 102 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. His 18 total touchdowns are second in the NFL behind Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor. Mike Williams also came back to catch one of Herbert’s TDs. Andre Roberts had a 101-yard kickoff return for a score – the first Charger to do so since 2012. In the Week 4 meeting with Las Vegas, Ekeler torched the Raiders defense for 117 rushing yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. The Chargers are sixth in the NFL with 27.6 points per game, but 27th in points allowed at 26.5. The Chargers are 7-2-1 against the spread in their last 10 games in January.
The status of Hobbs after his DUI arrest is unclear at this point, but it’s just another distraction the Raiders have to deal with. Hobbs has been a fifth-round bargain with an interception, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and a sack among his 67 tackles, which rank fourth on the team. Hunter Renfrow continues to be productive for the Raiders and it showed last week in the win over the Colts. Renfrow had 76 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven catches, while Zay Jones led the team with 120 receiving yards on eight catches. Waller, who is hoping to get back on the field, had 50 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches in the first meeting with the Chargers.
It’s hard to go with the young Herbert over the veteran Carr, but I will. Herbert torched the Raiders in the first meeting and I expect similar results in this one. Ekeler will also have a big game in what could be a shootout.
Pick: Chargers -3
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