It´s at this time of the season that our NFL analyst Neil Harvey traditionally hits form. And this year´s been no different, with last weekend´s selections yielding a massive 10 points profit. Confident the winning run can continue, this week he´s all-in on Oakland...
"With Oakland this time having home advantage, and the Chargers arriving emotionally spent, and on a short week, it´s hard to see any reason why the Raiders shouldn´t once again get the better of their local rivals"
This AFC West divisional clash has nothing riding on it. Not even pride, which both teams lost some weeks back with their consistently poor performances. Hatred could still be a major factor though. Divisional rivals tend to know each other much more intimately than most. And with that familiarity comes a very special brand of contempt. So while the play-offs may be long-gone, make no mistake, there should still be plenty of intensity out on the field.
San Diego (4-10) have been huge disappointments this year. Star wide receiver Keenan Allen was looking good until a lacerated kidney forced him out mid-campaign. Meanwhile rookie running back Melvin Gordon had looked totally out of his depth, right up until his season was ended this week by a knee injury. And so once again, it´s been down to quarterback Philip Rivers to keep the Chargers afloat. Except this year he's found the water coming on board too fast even for him to deal with.
San Diego were on a five game home losing streak going into last week. A run they snapped with a highly impressive 30-14 win over Miami. That victory though owed a lot to the belief that it could be the Chargers´last appearance at the Qualcomm Stadium, amid a mooted move to Los Angeles. As a result, the home side rallied together to produce an emotionally-charged effort in what they believed might be their last hurrah. If anything though, that effort is likely to have drained the Chargers. And in their case, the effects of the dreaded short week are likely to have even more impact than usual.
On paper, San Diego actually look the better team. Rivers has held the passing game together in tough circumstances, enough in fact to have them ranked fourth in the NFL. And in theory, they should find lots of holes in an Oakland secondary that rates just 28th. Certainly that was the case when the sides met in October, when Rivers threw for 332 yards and three touchdowns. Yet it still wasn't enough, as Rivers also tossed up two interceptions.
That's always been a problem with Rivers. He has a strong arm and can put up big numbers. But he's also prone to trying to do too much and turning over the ball. That previous meeting also exposed the Chargers woeful running game, ranked last in the NFL, as their leading rusher picked up just 35 yards. Oakland won it both on the ground, with 85 yards from Latavius Murray, and through the air, with Derek Carr producing a faultless performance of 289 yards with three TDs and no picks.
That was in San Diego. With Oakland this time having home advantage, and the Chargers arriving emotionally spent, and on a short week, it´s hard to see any reason why the Raiders shouldn't once again get the better of their local rivals. Also significant is that San Diego trailed 37-6 in that October before Oakland eased off - allowing them three garbage time TDs to skew the final result.
The Raiders are the Chargers´ rivals for that move move to LA and could see this as their last hurrah in front of home fans. Certainly it will be a last home outing for defensive legend Charles Woodson, who is retiring at the end of the season. So motivation should be high all round for the hosts, who also boast a healthier roster to go with their stronger mindset. In short, Oakland can win this one with room to spare. Look to Derek Carr to once again prove the difference against a jaded Chargers defense, with receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper a nice-looking dutch to add to their combined 13 touchdowns to date.
3pts Oakland (-4.5) to beat San Diego @ 1.9420/21
3pts Oakland (-2.5) to win at half time @ 1.9620/21
2pts Oakland (-10.5) to beat San Diego @ 3.02/1
Total Oakland Points Over 26.5 @ 1.9620/21
Michael Crabtree to score 1st/anytime touchdown @ 10.009/1
Amari Cooper to score 1st/anytime touchdown @ 9.008/1