CHARGERS // RAIDERS OVERVIEW
The Raiders have gutted their roster since the last time these teams met — embracing a tank year and piling up draft picks so that Jon Gruden (for better or worse) can build from the ground up. When these teams played in Week 5, it marked the beginning of the defensive turnaround for L.A.’s unloved child, with the Chargers holding the Raiders to 10 points on 309 total yards. Since then, the Chargers have allowed 14 points to the Browns, 19 points to the Titans, and 17 points to the Seahawks. The Raiders have point totals since then of 3 // 28 // 3.
The Chargers quietly rank dead last in pace of play, while the Raiders rank 29th. The Chargers are one of the NFL’s more run-heavy teams (21st in pass play rate), and no defense in football faces a lower pass play rate than Oakland, as teams consistently ignore the air and attack this team on the ground. Like Detroit: Oakland is attackable through the air (a league worst 9.1 yards allowed per pass attempt, with the second most passing touchdowns allowed in the NFL), but also like Oakland, teams simply choose to attack this team on the ground. The Lions are the only team in football that has faced fewer pass attempts than the Raiders.
The Chargers, on the other hand, are middling against both the pass and the run — and the strength of this pass defense (forcing short throws) is not a major detriment to Derek Carr and his league-low average intended air yards. The bigger concern, of course, is that the Raiders have shown no ability to score touchdowns (25th in red zone touchdown rate, 28th in points per game), and minus Marshawn Lynch and Amari Cooper, it is going to be difficult for this unit to buck those trends.
CHARGERS PASS OFFENSE
If the Chargers decide to break script and attack through the air, this will be one of the easiest matchups they could ask for, as no team has allowed more touchdowns per pass attempt than the Raiders, and no team has allowed more yards per pass attempt. To help illustrate just how embarrassing the Raiders’ league-worst sack total is: there are only four teams in football with fewer than 17 sacks. The Raiders are the only team below double-digits…with seven sacks on the year.
Of course, a bet on the Chargers’ passing attack is a bet on one of two things:
1) You could bet on the Chargers breaking away from their extremely run-heavy ways (since Week 1, Philip Rivers has pass attempt totals of 27 // 30 // 39 // 27 // 20 // 26 // 26) — against a defense that has faced the lowest pass play rate in the league. Or,
2) You could bet on one of the pieces of the Chargers’ passing attack hitting for a couple big plays.
Over the last four weeks (starting from the last game against the Raiders), targets on the Chargers look like this:
Last week, Allen uncharacteristically saw seven targets that traveled more than 10 yards downfield, including a deep shot that went for an awesome 54-yard gain. As noted repeatedly in this space: Allen is being used almost exclusively as a possession-type receiver, with his downfield target last week marking his first target of 20+ yards since Week 3. A bet on Allen is a bet on the Chargers throwing more than normal, or on Allen seeing another couple downfield looks.
Tyrell and Mike, of course, each carry upside on their looks — but each guy carries a thin floor with how little this offense is passing.
The matchup, it should go without saying, is excellent for all these guys.
CHARGERS RUN OFFENSE
A quiet byproduct of the Chargers’ run-heavy ways is that Melvin Gordon has not topped four targets in any of his last four games. And with the Chargers playing at such a slow pace (and keeping the clock running on the ground), this team also ranks 30th in plays per game — which has led to Gordon notching carry totals on the year of 15 // 9 // 15 // 15 // 19 // 18 // 16. The Raiders have allowed the fourth fewest opponent plays per game, so a volume spike is unlikely to be in the cards here — requiring Gordon to notch incredible efficiency on his 18 to 20 looks in order to pay off his swollen price tag (14.83% of the salary cap on FanDuel…and a massive 18.0% on DK and 17.0% on FDraft). Working in his favor is a matchup against a Raiders team allowing 4.8 yards per carry (28th in the NFL), with 10 touchdowns allowed to the running back position (only six teams have allowed more). On paper, Gordon’s red zone role pales in comparison to guys like Conner, Hunt, and Gurley, but that’s only because Gordon has been so incredibly efficient on his red zone touches — scoring nine red zone touchdowns on only 22 red zone touches (a 40.9% rate — compared to 15 touchdowns on 57 red zone touches for Gurley, a 26.3% rate).
The slow pace and low play volume for this Chargers team has also taken some of the shine off Austin Ekeler, who has touch counts of only 7 // 7 // 4 in the last three games Gordon played. Ekeler will need a spike in usage to become anything but a hope-and-pray play.
RAIDERS PASS OFFENSE
Over his last three games, Carr has pass attempt totals of only 31 // 28 // 21, though the Raiders have averaged only 53.0 plays per game during this stretch — about nine plays per game below their season-long rate. Low play volume will always be a concern on this team — which combines a non-explosive offense with a defense that cannot stop the run — but Carr should be able to push for 30+ pass attempts in this spot, if you want to pretend like there is some good news on this side of the ball.
Much like the Giants on Monday Night Football a few weeks ago against the Falcons: this is actually a quality spot for the Raiders’ style of passing attack, as this team capitalizes on completing short passes and picking up yards after the catch. The Chargers’ defense should comply in this area, as they focus on forcing short throws, and they have been below-average after the catch. Unlike the Giants, however (who had Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham in that game to target for upside), the Raiders’ pieces with the ball in their hands will be Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, and Brandon LaFell. In two games since Amari was traded, targets on this team look like this:
:: Jordy — 4 // 3
:: Roberts — 4 // 2
:: LaFell — 4 // 3
:: Jared Cook — 5 // 2
While it is likely that Oakland will squeeze off a few more pass attempts than they had the last couple weeks, it will be difficult for any of these guys to find major upside. The Raiders quietly have the second highest completion rate in the NFL, but once the ball is in the hands of these low-upside guys, very little is happening. The highest-upside piece in this “attack” is Cook, who has finished with 20 or fewer yards in three of his last four games, but who mixed in a strong 4-74-1 line during that stretch. The Chargers have been a middling matchup for tight ends this year.
RAIDERS RUN OFFENSE
Since Marshawn Lynch went down, Doug Martin has seen 13 and 11 carries, with four targets and three total catches across those two games. If the Raiders are able to keep this game close, there is a chance Martin will see 15 to 18 carries — and the rare goal line opportunity on this offense would be set to go his way. Obviously, in the absence of touchdowns or a broken play, Martin will provide little value.
The more valuable piece in this backfield has been Jalen Richard, who is a “bet on the Raiders falling behind” piece. Richard has recent target counts of 7 // 5 // 6 // 8 // 8 // 4. He has yet to reach 60 receiving yards in a game and he has topped two carries only once, with zero touchdowns on the year — leaving him as a “bet on floor and hope for upside” play on a team that is likely to find themselves trailing once again.
Pricing psychology may actually lead to Gordon being more popular this week than he otherwise would be (when a player’s price climbs this high, it almost comes across as the sites giving an endorsement to this player — which can lead to people thinking they have to move around salary to fit that guy), making it worth noting that Gordon has shown a low touch ceiling on the year. A bet on Gordon is a bet on efficiency. Given what he has done this year, Gordon has a strong shot at hitting, though his floor is lower than some other guys in his price range.
The “bet on efficiency” conversation extends to the Chargers’ passing attack, as this slow-paced, run-leaning offense is taking on a slow-paced Raiders team, and is furthermore taking on a defense that invites teams to run (thus shortening games). This is a poor spot to expect Rivers to rise above 30 pass attempts for what would be just the second time in eight games. I don’t expect to roster the Chargers’ passing attack myself. If you want to go here: the matchup sets up great, but a bet on this passing attack is a bet on the Chargers either A) unexpectedly airing things out, or B) notching upside on extreme efficiency.
The Raiders’ offense is dead to me, and I won’t be going to anyone on this tanking team. If you want to attack in this spot through the air, you could hope for a big YAC day from one of the wide receivers, or you could hope for a return to relevance for Cook. In the backfield, Richard is the better bet, but Martin could theoretically become relevant with a long run or a couple unpredictable touchdowns.