- This will be a big night for Philip Rivers and the Chargers passing game
- Josh Jacobs continues his excellent play tonight against a poor run defense
- In a close battle, the one guarantee is that the Chargers will be able to move the ball
LAC Offense vs OAK Defense:
- The high-powered Chargers offense is finally starting to get healthy and for the first time all season they will have all of their weapons in the lineup.
- I am going to ignore the Chargers’ run game and instead focus on Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ big advantage in the passing game against Oakland, who ranks 29th in DVOA pass defense.
- LA ranks ninth in the NFL in both DVOA pass offense and success rate. The Chargers have done this with a patchwork OL, the Melvin Gordon holdout, and injuries to the WR corps.
- The Chargers’ opposing pass defense schedule has been a mixed bag, but the Chargers have faced only one team that ranks in the bottom 10 in DVOA and success rate, the Dolphins. In that game, Rivers threw for 310 yards on 80% completions and a 10.3 yards per attempt.
- The Chargers should be able to attack the Raiders with the deep ball, who rank 29th defending deep passes. Both Mike Williams and Keenan Allen are in the top 15 in the NFL in deep targets.
- Last week, Matthew Stafford shredded this Raiders pass defense for 406 yards, 3 TDs, and 9.9 YPA. Stafford went 12/19 for 275 yards and 3 TDs on passes over 10 yards.
- Rivers is 13th in the percentage of deep attempts among NFL QBs. The Chargers have trouble protecting Rivers, allowing the second-most pressures in the NFL, but they shouldn’t have that issue against he 30th ranked pass rush in the Raiders.
- To really encapsulate just how bad the Raiders have been against the pass, the Raiders have faced five QBs that rank in the top 11 in YPA. Those QBs, Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, and Stafford, completed 70% of their passes for 346 yards per game, 9.8 YPA, 16 TDs, and 1 INT. They allowed Mahomes, Rodgers, and Stafford to all throw for over 400 yards this season. That’s unheard of. Rivers currently sits 10th in the NFL in YPA and is licking his chops.
- The Raiders pass defense has allowed a YPA that is 17% higher than those five QBs have put up in aggregate this season. They also gave up a completion percentage 5% higher, a number of attempts 5% higher, and a TD rate 50% higher than those QBs have put up on average as well. If all you did was apply those simple premium figures to Rivers’s current season average, a projection for tonight would be 27/39, 357 yards, and 2 TDs.
- Rivers’s 7.8 YPA comes against an aggregate set of pass defenses that have allowed 6.99 YPA on the season. That 9% premium against average expectation ranks eighth-best in the NFL.
- All Chargers WRs, TEs, Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler are in play for a big game tonight. Hunter Henry has been a stud this season, averaging 77.6 yards, and 5.9 receptions per game. He has cleared 83 yards in 3 of his last 4 games. The Raiders defense has allowed the fifth-most yards and the ninth-highest target share to TEs this season. Henry is a matchup nightmare for any team, and I expect Rivers to target him a lot this season.
OAK Offense vs LAC Defense:
- Oakland’s offense has been tremendous this year against a tough schedule and an almost impossible travel schedule.
- They rank fifth-best in DVOA offense and are third in passing and sixth on the ground. They are fourth in offensive success rate.
- The OL has been tremendous this year, allowing the third-lowest percentage of pressures in the NFL. They’ve also been great at opening up holes at the line of scrimmage, ranking fourth-best in adjusted line yards. That OL will be tested against Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Although the Chargers only rank 16th in pressures on defense, Ingram was missing from the lineup for three games. He came back to the lineup two weeks ago against Chicago but then showed up big time last week against Green Bay with 1.5 sacks.
- Derek Carr has been efficient, ranking ninth in YPA and second in completion percentage. The Chargers have struggled defending the pass, ranking 29th in success rate and 23rd in DVOA pass defense.
- Carr has been excellent when facing pressure, ranking second in the NFL in passer rating according to PFF.
- Darren Waller has been Carr’s favorite receiving target this season, by far. He has received 60 targets and has accounted for 28% of Carr’s passing yards per game. His numbers have dipped lately and hasn’t recorded more than 53 yards since Week 3. The Chargers have allowed a target share to TEs that is 14th-lowest in the NFL and a success rate allowed to TEs that ranks fourth-best. Waller could be held in check tonight.
- This is the Tyrell Williams revenge game of course. He has received the 12th-highest percentage of deep passes of over 20 yards in the NFL. Expect multiple deep shots to Williams tonight.
- The real story of the Raiders offense this year has to be Josh Jacobs. The rookie has been tremendous and is ranked eighth in DVOA and 11th in success rate among RBs. Jacobs is averaging 4.9 YPC against a schedule of run defenses that on the season has allowed 4.36 YPC. He has averaged at least 4.3 YPC in every game since the opener.
- The Chargers are 25th in DVOA run defense and 31st in success rate. It’s important to monitor Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman’s status tonight. He was injured against GB and his status has been crucial to the Chargers run defense the last couple of years.
ATS Side I like tonight: (Chargers team total over 24 -120 5Dimes)
In a rarity, we get a really exciting Thursday night matchup. As noted above, both teams will be able to move the ball up and down the field. I have a little more faith in the Chargers defense than the Raiders but the combination of Anthony Lynn’s awful in-game coaching blunders and just the ridiculous bad luck in close games for the Chargers is keeping me off the side.
Instead, I will go with Chargers over team total of 24 points. With Russell Okung back healthy into the lineup for the Chargers, Rivers will have time to shred this awful Raider pass defense. Yes, the Chargers have played at a slow pace this season, third slowest in neutral game situations, but they did improve to 16th last week under their new OC. What makes up for the risk of a slow-paced offense is the ability of the Chargers to gain big chunks of yardage down the field and the Raiders’ inability to stop explosive passes.