The final installment of Sunday Night Football will feature some rather obvious playoff implications when the L.A. Chargers take on the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium.
It’s simple: Win and you advance to the postseason; lose and your season is over.
The line opened with the Chargers as a 3-point favorite over the Raiders. That number has pretty much held steady through the week, and several sportsbooks including BetMGM and FanDuel were dealing L.A. -3 as of Thursday morning. The total has climbed from an opening 47.5 to 49.5 at most books including DraftKings and PointsBet.
L.A. Chargers (9-7, 8-8 ATS) at Las Vegas Raiders (9-7, 7-9 ATS)
Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Line: Chargers -3 (49.5)
The skinny: A wild-card playoff berth will be at stake when these teams meet just off the Vegas Strip in the prime-time finale to the NFL regular season.
Facts: Both teams could also earn playoff berths by playing to a tie provided the Colts lose at Jacksonville earlier in the day. But Indy is a 15-point favorite, and since favorites of 15-plus points are 5-0 SU this season, that’s not likely to happen.
The Raiders and QB Derek Carr are on a three-game winning streak after losing five of six games from Week 9-14 after their bye week. Twice during that surge, they have taken double-digit leads, squandered them, then rallied to win with a FG at the gun. Included in that run was last week’s 23-20 victory as an 8.5-point dog at Indy.
Before that three-game stretch, the Raiders were listed as 325-1 to win the Super Bowl at various sites. This week, SuperBook USA has Las Vegas at 100-1.
The Chargers, who beat the Raiders 28-14 in Week 14, have lost two of their past three games to drop out of first place in the AFC West. One of those losses came in a stunning 41-29 defeat as a 13-point favorite at Houston. L.A. was without three players voted to the 2022 Pro Bowl in that game: LB Joey Bosa, center Corey Linsley, safety Derwin James, and two alternates in RB Austin Ekeler, and WR Mike Williams. All are expected to play here, although Linsley (back) is listed as questionable.
Analysis: The Raiders are extremely fortunate to be in this win-and-in scenario, considering three of their victories have come in overtime, and given that they have a -7 turnover margin during their current three-game win streak.
The expected return of standout TE Darren Waller, who hasn’t played since Vegas won at Dallas 36-33 on Thanksgiving, will help but likely won’t be enough for a team that has had only one game the past eight weeks with 350 or more yards of offense. That came in the win at Dallas.
The Chargers aren’t any great shakes on defense (ranking 23rd in yards allowed), but L.A. will reportedly have its secondary intact for the first time since opening week.
As for QBs, L.A.’s Justin Herbert and Carr are star caliber and can be difference-makers, but Ekeler rates an edge over Vegas’ Josh Jacobs (questionable, ribs) in the running game. Ekeler ranks above him in yards per carry (4.5-3.9), rushing TDs (11-8) and hasn’t fumbled. Jacobs has fumbled twice.
Ekeler had his only 100-yard rushing game of the year in that previous win over Vegas.
Chargers at Raiders Pick
Chargers 31, Raiders 21
Last week: 3-3 ATS, 4-2 SU
Season total: 120-123-3 (.490) ATS, 152-93-1 (.620) SU