After two straight 1-1 weeks, we went 2-1 last week, getting closing line value on the total in the Arizona/San Francisco game and winning with Houston despite the market disagreeing with us, closing with Jacksonville as a favorite in London. We lost for the third straight Sunday Night Football game, leaving us with a 16-9 on the season and 109-90-10 (54.8%) since we started writing this column in 2017. We’ve generated an average of 0.26 points of closing line value on our 25 picks this season and 0.33 points on our 21 sides.
Each week we will debate all the games on the PFF Forecast (happens every Thursday morning at 10am-ish ET if you want to follow along live for some reason) deciding which side we like most. There are always a few good debates that don’t make it to this article. Subscribe and download to bring good karma to all facets of your life and maybe even give it a listen.
This week the pickings were slim. It may very well be similar to last week, where late line movements open up more options, so follow along on PFF Greenline for up-to-the-minute predictions. And now, let’s get on with week number 10.
Point (Eric Eager): The Raiders are currently in a better position to make the playoffs than the Chargers are, making it in just over 23% of our simulations, vs. 16% for the Chargers. This is in large part because the Raiders have played above expectations, covering the spread in four of their last five games and winning three of those games outright, two of which were against 2018 playoff teams. Derek Carr has earned a top-five passing grade through the season’s first nine weeks, and only Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson have graded better since Week 4.
Until you think I’m writing George’s section, I have to discuss what the above means in terms of the motivation for this one. The Chargers were a playoff team in 2018. A 12-win team in 2018. They are (at least to themselves) a playoff team. Faced with the prospect of losing such a designation, the Chargers have clawed their way back the last two weeks, winning in Chicago and then at home in front of a bunch of cholesterol-infused Green Bay Packers fans. On the other hand, the Raiders, lined around six wins preseason, are playing with the house’s money at the moment and not endowed with a playoff spot in their minds. Oakland might be less inclined to try to preserve their slim (if improving) odds to represent the AFC West in January.
As far as the fundamentals are concerned, the Chargers have a huge edge when they have the football, as the Raiders are tied with the Dolphins for the second-worst pass rush in the league, and only five teams were worse in coverage. Philip Rivers and the passing offense of the Chargers has been underwhelming so far (18 of Rivers’ passes have been dropped, and 12 have been thrown away), but he’s in the top 10 in terms of PFF grade. With weapons like Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry and Austin Ekeler and an opposing front seven that is likely unable to take advantage of their issues up front, look for the Chargers to put up enough points to pace a plucky Oakland offense and win their last game in the Colosseum.
Counterpoint (George Chahrouri): Are the Chargers back? They won a game in which every single human on earth, including everyone in their home stadium, bet against them and now we’re supposed to put them right back to where we had them before the season started? In the words of Dean Spanos, that's “total f—kin bullshit.”
Let’s not forget that the Chargers lost to Joe Flacco, Duck Hodges and Ryan Tannehill, and then beat Mitch Trubisky by one. If you add this all up, they lost to about two-thirds of a quarterback and beat a team that doesn’t even have one. Derek Carr isn’t creeping into a top-tier quarterback range, but he at least gets to play the position without being laughed at. In fact, Carr is avoiding negatively graded throws (our most stable quarterback metric) at the third-best rate in the NFL this season behind only Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. Meanwhile, Rivers has made more turnover-worthy plays (third-most in the league) than he has children, and his two offensive tackles move as well as the traffic on the I-10 through downtown Los Angeles.
The Chargers' defense is allowing quarterbacks to spend 2.45s in a clean pocket on average, which is the 10th-longest of any defense and just enough time for Carr to remind everyone that the Raiders won the Khalil Mack trade.