The Chargers have a history of getting off to slow starts under Coach Norv Turner, but they may be able to take advantage of an Oakland defense that lost no fewer than eight major contributors to last year’s team. San Diego is a small 1½-point road dog here with the total set at 47½.
1. Why San Diego will cover the spread: The Chargers will cover the spread if Philip Rivers does not turn the ball over. Rivers got off to a terrible start last season and although he ended up with over 4600 passing yards, he also threw a career-high 20 interceptions and lost some key fumbles, most notably one that ended up costing San Diego a game in Kansas City on a Monday night. Another key will be the ability of the Chargers’ offensive line to pass protect for Rivers. That is a concern given the retirement of Pro Bowl guard Kris Dielman and several injures that prompted Turner to hold Rivers out of the last couple of preseason games.
2. Why Oakland will cover the spread: Oakland will cover the spread if it can take advantage of both San Diego’s offensive line issues and Rivers’ propensity to make mistakes by applying pressure on the quarterback. Where that pass rush would come from is anybody’s guess though, as among the Raiders’ losses on defense this off-season were their best pass-rusher Kamerion Wimbley, defensive end Trevor Scott and defensive tackle John Henderson, who retired. Of course, if the Raiders would prefer to keep that defense off the field as much as possible, then a bigger key would be stud running back Darren McFadden running the ball effectively to take time off the clock on offense.
3. Total Talk: This total is a tough call, but we will lean slightly to the ‘under’ at the relatively high total of 47½. Yes, we realize that Rivers is capable of going off if the Raiders do not suddenly discover a pass rush, and Rivers will probably throw a lot with running back Ryan Matthew doubtful to be back in time for this game, but while Rivers should put up enough points for San Diego to win, we also think he will make enough mistakes to prevent the Chargers from running up the score. As stated, Turner has not exactly had a stellar track record when it comes to having his team ready to begin a season. Plus, we do expect a now healthy McFadden to run well as the Raiders play some keep-away.
4. Betting Trends for the game: After San Diego dominated this series for several years, the Raiders are now 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings. Also, the Chargers are 14-23 ATS in Week 1-8 since 2007. However, the Oakland defense may trump those trends.
San Diego 24 – Oakland 20