There was a time when this was a great rivalry full of all the ingredients you need — intensity, hatred, excitement, relevance and the rest. While the fans of both teams still routinely get insanely fired up for it, it has been a long while since both teams have been good enough (at the same time) to care about the showdowns.
Now, though, San Diego is still hanging around with the big boys and Oakland is finally out from under Al Davis’ thumb and starting to build towards lasting respectability, so this is possibly the most interesting meeting of these teams in years. Despite Oakland’s embarrassing recent history, though, they have enjoyed these games. After ending San Diego’s long winning streak against them in 2010, the Raiders have won and covered three of the last four games, including both in 2010.
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Their latest chapter winds up the opening weekend of NFL action on Monday night, and it is a crucial test for two teams that are certainly capable of winning the most wide-open division in football.
Chargers at Raiders Betting Storylines
Can Carson Palmer again be an elite quarterback in the NFL? It’s a crucial question both for this game and the season ahead for Oakland. There are some that think he absolutely can and will. Others, though, point to many factors — his age, wonky elbow, seeming apathy, poor performance last year — to back up their belief that Terrelle Pryor or Matt Leinart will be in charge in no time.
Palmer doesn’t seem like a perfect fit in the west coast-style offense that Oakland is using, and that won’t help — especially if the Chargers can establish their outside pass rush early. Personally I find it hard to believe in Palmer at this point, but we’ll get a sense early of how he can establish himself, and that will be key.
San Diego has two glaring issues they need to deal with in this game and beyond. First, they have been all but absent in September in recent years under Norv Turner. It’s like they don’t realize training camp is over for the first month of the season. It has left them in a hole before things get going, and has been wildly frustrating for bettors.
The cast is mostly the same this year, but can the team have a new mindset? I’m skeptical until I see otherwise. The other issue is that the defense absolutely must find a way to effectively shut down third-down attempts. No team was worse last year, and that has a ripple effect on every aspect of the team because the defense gets tired and the offense get stale. They’ve done work in that area, but if it doesn’t pay off — if they aren’t creating more turnovers, and making plays when they need to — then the team is in trouble.
The key matchup that will likely determine the outcome of this game is the San Diego offensive line against the Oakland run defense. Oakland should have been much better against the run last year than they were — and they have a lot of room for improvement since no team was worse. They were too sloppy and undisciplined, and it was a real problem. It has been a major focus of the offseason, though, so we should look for improvement.
San Diego, meanwhile, is fielding an offensive line that is questionable. They lack size and depth. It’s potential weakness against potential weakness, and the team that can have the better day will have a big edge.
Chargers at Raiders NFL Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the Raiders only slightly favored at -1 on NFL odds — well below the typical home-field advantage. The odds have been remarkably stable at that level, though the Chargers are drawing a solid majority of the action, and the price is showing early hints of moving accordingly, though it isn’t likely to move more than a couple of points as things stand now. The total opened at 46.5 and is showing a slight upward tendency.
Oakland is 5-1 ATS in the last three years against the Chargers, though the one failure came in their last meeting last year. The Raiders are 4-0 ATS in their last four September games, while San Diego is 0-4 ATS in September, and hasn’t covered any of their last four season openers.
NFL Picks: Chargers at Raiders Predictions
The game appears to be essentially a coin flip in many ways, and that fits well with the odds. I don’t love either offense right now, and don’t expect a real high-scoring contest, so I will start by giving a nod to the “under”. The difference could turn out to be the running game, and Oakland should have the edge there because of Darren McFadden. That plus the home-field advantage and the early-season setting that has been the Chargers Achilles heel should be enough to get the Raiders over the top. I’ll be patient with this one, though, because the price won’t get any worse for the Raiders and could easily get better.
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