NFL Thursday Night Football: Chargers/Raiders Preview

by Big Al Staff

The last Thursday night game in the NFL season involves a clash between AFC West rivals with one team still fighting for the playoffs.

Las Vegas has lost three of their last four games but remains alive in the AFC playoff hunt. With their 7-6 record, the Raiders are in ninth place in the AFC standings behind Miami and Baltimore with 8-5 records. Las Vegas needs to pass both teams to claim the final seventh spot in the playoff bracket. Yet the tie-breaker possibilities offer hope. The Raiders own a better conference record with the Ravens, and they have the opportunity to earn a head-to-head tie-breaker with their game against the Dolphins pending next week.

Las Vegas comes off a 44-27 upset loss at home to Indianapolis last week as a 2.5-point favorite. The Raiders were held back by a  -3 net turnover margin with quarterback Derek Carr throwing two interceptions while fumbling another three times. Carr completed 31 of 45 passes for 316 yards, but his turnovers continue to hurt his team. He has 11 fumbles on the season, along with seven interceptions. These mistakes threaten to overshadow his 68.2% completion percentage that has resulted in 3343 passing yards with 27 touchdown passes.

The Las Vegas defense has also been an increasing concern for head coach Jon Gruden as they allowed over 200 rushing yards for the second straight week. That was the final straw for Gruden who fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and replaced him with defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. On a short week, there is not much he can do to fix what plagues the Raiders’ defense. Marinelli was previously the head coach of the Detroit Lions team that finished 0-16 before he later served as the defensive coordinator in Dallas.

Los Angeles is playing out the string with a 4-9 record, but they did win for the third time in ten contests decided by one scoring possession last week. The Chargers pulled out a 20-17 win at home over Atlanta as a 1-point favorite. Fourth-year head coach Anthony Lynn continues to face scrutiny with clock management and special teams. This week, the controversy involved an ill-advised run play called late in the first half on the Falcons' eight-yard line. Being out of time outs, the Chargers failed to score on the drive as time expired for halftime

Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert has been a bright spot. He completed 36 of 44 passes against Atlanta for 243 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Herbert is completing 66.3% of his passes for 3467 yards with 25 touchdown passes and ten interceptions.

The Raiders will be without four starters in this critical game due to injuries. Safety Johnathan Abram, linebacker Nicholas Morrow, and cornerback Damon Arnette are in the concussion protocol while defensive end Clelin Ferrell deals with a shoulder. Cornerback Nevin Lawson is questionable with an illness.

The Chargers have right tackle Bryan Bulaga out with his concussion issues. Linebacker Denzel Perryman and safety Nasir Adderley are doubtful with injuries. Three key players on offense are questionable, with wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams dealing with a hamstring and back while running back Austin Ekeler dealing with a quad. All three players did take part in limited practice this week. Los Angeles also has eight players either out or on their Injured Reserve list, including defensive stalwarts Derwin James and Melvin Ingram, who have been out all season.

Las Vegas needs to win this game to maintain their playoff hopes while the Chargers are relegated to the spoiler role and perhaps salvaging Lynn’s job for next season. BetAnySports lists the Raiders as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 53. NBC has the broadcast with the kickoff shortly after 8:20 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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