Welcome to the Thursday Night Football betting breakdown, where each week I’ll provide a detailed betting overview of the upcoming Thursday Night Football game utilizing moneyline, points spread and projected total odds from DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. I’ll also highlight at least one player- or game-based prop each week that I feel has profit potential.
The Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders will face off at Allegiant Stadium on Thursday night, Dec. 17. The game will mark the 123rd meeting in a series the Raiders lead, 66-54-2. The most recent game between the teams unfolded in Week 9 of this season, a game Las Vegas won by a 31-26 margin.
The Chargers were able to snap a two-game losing streak in Week 14 with a 20-17 win over the Falcons keyed by a late interception of Matt Ryan. Meanwhile, the Raiders made their path to the postseason even more difficult by falling flat against the Indianapolis Colts, 44-27. The defensive collapse was such that it led to the dismissal of coordinator Paul Guenther hours after the game’s conclusion.
All betting takes will be classified as a “pick” or “lean”, with considerations such as relevant injuries, past betting trends and recent performances of each team leading up to the game factoring in.
For more detailed information on this week’s matchup – including further game analysis, betting trends breakdown, betting tips specific to TNF, and a synopsis of the history of the line movement for the game, please see our Thursday Night Football Betting Preview over at TheLines.
While the Chargers’ 4-9 mark lags considerably behind the Raiders’ 7-6, oddsmakers clearly don’t see that as reflective of the real-world gap between the two teams. Supporting the notion of a potentially close game is the fact the five-point margin the initial meeting was decided by. The Raiders defense’s all-around deficiencies could also make it difficult for Las Vegas to truly pull away from the Chargers.
It remains to be seen if interim defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will be able to make meaningful changes on such a short week on a unit that’s allowing 256.1 passing yards per game, including the second most (299.7) of any home team. Rookie QB Justin Herbert is putting the ball up just under 42 times per game and Vegas safety Johnathan Abram is in the concussion protocol as of Tuesday evening, a confluence of factors that could lead to a solid amount of success through the air for the Bolts. However, it appears two of Herbert’s most important pass-catching weapons outside of Austin Ekeler – Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry – are going to play this game at least partly hobbled by hamstring and hip injuries, respectively. An absence of at least one of them is even possible, which would naturally neuter L.A.’s firepower significantly. (Thursday, 12/17 Update: Allen and Mike Williams will both be gametime decisions, while Henry is no longer on the injury report)
Speaking of Ekeler, the versatile back is dealing with a quadriceps injury himself sustained in Week 14 against Atlanta, his third game back after a stint on injured reserve. Los Angeles does boast strong depth behind him in Kalen Ballage and Justin Jackson, although neither offers Ekeler’s elite receiving skills. The matchup is favorable for whatever backs can suit up, as the Raiders surrender 128.1 rushing yards per game, along with the third-most RB yards (4.99), second-most open-field yards (1.07) and second-most second-level yards (1.46) per carry.
Raiders running back Josh Jacobs should find himself in a similarly advantageous position. The second-year back will tangle with a Chargers front that’s allowing 4.82 RB yards per carry and 1.39 second-level yards per tote. Coach Jon Gruden isn’t shy about leaning on the run heavily either, with Vegas’ rushing play rate of 44.14 percent sits at ninth highest in the league. That figure could even creep up a notch or two when considering L.A. has done a consistently good job snuffing out wide receiver production.
The Chargers check in surrendering the seventh-fewest passing yards per game (217.1) and ninth-lowest completion percentage (63.3), along with a 61.9 percent catch rate to receivers. However, Los Angeles’ secondary also carries a couple of key health question marks into this game, as cornerback Chris Harris (foot) and safety Nasir Adderley (shoulder) have questionable tags 48 hours ahead of kickoff. The absence of either would certainly ding the overall quality of this unit against a Raiders offense that boasts two elite speedsters in Henry Ruggs and Nelson Agholor. Then, the always dangers Darren Waller draws an inviting matchup versus a defense that’s tied with multiple teams for third-most receiving touchdowns (nine) yielded to his position.
I concur with the oddsmakers that this will turn out to be a close contest, but the Chargers are the more banged-up and less-incentivized team. As such, I’m in the camp of the home team pulling out a victory.
The Pick: Raiders moneyline (-190 or better)
TNF Point Spread
The Chargers are 6-7 (46.2 percent) against the spread this season, including 3-3 as a road team and 1-2 (33.3 percent) in division games.
The Raiders are 7-6 (53.8 percent) against the spread this season, including 3-3 (50.0 percent) as a home team and 4-0 in division games.
In accordance with my belief the Raiders notch the win here, I’m also leaning toward a cover on the 3.5 points (Thursday, 12/17 Update: The line has now moved to Raiders -3 at both FD Sportsbook and DK Sportsbook). As indicated above, Las Vegas has been perfect against the number versus division opponents and is undoubtedly the team with the most urgency. Los Angeles’ net margin of defeat of 7.0 points as a road underdog also plays into this prediction.
The Lean: Raiders – 3 or better
TNF Over/Under Total
The Over is 7-6 (53.8 percent) in Los Angeles’ games this season, including 4-2 (66.7 percent) in its away games and 2-1 (66.7 percent) against AFC West opponents.
Then, the Over is 9-3-1 (75.0 percent) in Las Vegas’ games this season, including 4-1-1 (80.0 percent) in its home games and 3-1 (75.0 percent) in its division games.
In addition to the Over’s winning record for both teams in all of the splits that apply Thursday, it’s also worth noting the Raiders come in giving up the most points per drive (2.94), while the Chargers aren’t too far behind while giving up the 10th most (2.46).
Each squad is also right next to the other in the bottom 10 of the NFL in second-half points per game allowed, with L.A. yielding an average of 14.2 over the third and fourth quarters and Vegas surrendering an even more unsightly 15.0 per contest after halftime. (Thursday, 12/17 Update: Additionally, as of Thursday morning, it’s confirmed each squad will be out a starting safety — Johnathan Abram for the Raiders and Adderley for the Chargers — while Vegas will have at least two other defensive starters in Clelin Ferrell and Nicholas Morrow out as well).
The Lean: Over 53.0 points or better
Best TNF Prop Bets
Derek Carr Under 264.5 Passing Yards (+115 or better)
As explained earlier, the Chargers considerably better than league average at limiting production through the air. The absence of Adderley does affect them to an extent, but this is still a unit that held Carr to 165 yards the first time they played. Additionally, as already alluded to, Vegas runs the ball at a top-10 rate and has a favorable matchup on the ground, and Carr has already failed to hit this statistical benchmark in six out of 13 games thus far this season.
OTHER TNF PROP BETS TO CONSIDER:
Darren Waller Over 6.5 Receptions (+108 or better)
First Touchdown Scorer: Darren Waller (+700 or better)