Las Vegas Raiders vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Line: Los Angeles -3
Where: Allegiant Stadium
When: Sunday, 1/9 at 8:20 p.m. ET
The first season with fans at Allegiant Stadium will come to a fitting conclusion when the NFL turns its attention to Sunday night’s showdown between the Raiders and Chargers.
This will be the only game of the week with a direct playoff berth on the line for both teams. Los Angeles improved to 9-7 with a 34-13 win over Denver last week, while Las Vegas has used a three-game winning streak to get to the 9-7 mark itself.
Oddsmakers opened the visiting Chargers as 2-point favorites, and the line has slowly risen to -3. Las Vegas has closed as a home underdog four times this season, going 2-2 both straight-up and against the spread in those games. Los Angeles picked up a 28-14 win as a 3-point home favorite when these teams met in Week 4.
Sunday night’s total opened at 47.5 and has been bet up to 49 at most spots. The Chargers have gone ‘over’ in each of their last five games and have now cashed the ‘over’ in 13 of their last 19 road games.
Los Angeles should have already clinched its playoff berth, but it lost a 41-29 final to Houston as a 13-point road favorite in Week 16. The Chargers bounced back from that disappointing loss with a 34-13 win over Denver last week. It has been an up and down season for Los Angeles, which has not won more than two consecutive games since October.
The Chargers come into this game ranked fourth in the NFL offensively, averaging 387.1 yards per game. Quarterback Justin Herbert has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 4,631 yards and 35 touchdowns. His top targets have been wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, who have both gone over the 1,000-yard mark.
Running back Austin Ekeler has been a key part of the offense as well, rushing for 847 yards and 11 touchdowns on 190 carries. He is also the third-leading receiver, catching 65 passes for 612 yards. The Chargers will be facing a Raiders’ defense that is No. 14, allowing 330.8 yards per game.
Las Vegas got off to a 5-2 start this season before losing five of its next six games. The Raiders have been able to keep their playoff hopes alive with three consecutive wins, beating Cleveland, Denver and Indianapolis. They were 8.5-point underdogs in their 23-20 win over the Colts last week.
The Raiders have been without tight end Darren Waller since Thanksgiving Day due to knee and back injuries, along with a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Waller is listed as ‘questionable’ for Sunday night’s game. Quarterback Derek Carr has been primarily targeting wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who has caught 99 passes for 1,025 yards and seven touchdowns.
Carr was held to a season-low 196 passing yards in the loss to Los Angeles in Week 4. Las Vegas comes into this game ranked No. 11 offensively, averaging 364.9 yards per game. The Raiders are going up against a Los Angeles defense that is No. 23 in yards allowed per game (361.0).
Running back Josh Jacobs leads the Las Vegas rushing attack with 191 carries for 740 yards and eight touchdowns. He was a limited participant in Thursday’s walkthrough (ribs) and is officially listed as ‘questionable’ for this game.
Los Angeles has covered the spread in eight of the last 12 head-to-head meetings between these teams. The Raiders have covered just three times in their last nine games this season, but two of those covers have come in their past two games.
The pick: Las Vegas +3
This line has bumped up slightly since the opener, allowing us to take Las Vegas getting a field goal at home on Sunday night. I still believe that defense plays a key role when it comes down to pivotal games—there is no questioning which team has a better defense in this matchup. And while Los Angeles has been slightly more explosive offensively, the Raiders have a more experienced quarterback and will be playing in front of their home crowd. They could also be getting a key weapon back in Waller, which would take some pressure off Renfrow in the passing game.