The final game of this erratic 2021 regular season comes Sunday night, bringing us an exciting divisional matchup in the AFC West with the Las Vegas Raiders (9-7) hosting the Los Angeles Chargers (9-7).
Unless we see a shocking upset of the Jaguars taking down the Colts this week, this matchup is set up to award the winner with a playoff berth via Wild Card spot, and the loser with a participation award.
If the Jaguars pull off a spoiler win against the Colts, there is an extremely entertaining scenario where the Chargers and Raiders could tie and both make the playoffs. More of a fun fact than applicable information, but if the Jags win, I will most certainly be rooting for a the most chaotic tie in the history of football.
The Raiders and the Chargers are playing for their lives here. Let’s take a look at what a competitive Week 18 game could look like.
Chargers vs Raiders Prop Bets: NFL Week 18 SNF Prop Betting Picks
Chargers -3 (-110) at Caesers
Wager: 1.25 Units
The Raiders are winning the momentum battle against the Chargers heading into Week 18. In a season full of antics, disappointment, and heartbreak, the Raiders are finishing strong by taking down each of their last three opponents, including a gritty win against a strong Colts team.
Meanwhile, the Chargers have lost two of their last three games, including taking a beating in Week 16 against the lowly Houston Texans.
Despite this, things are looking up for the Chargers this week. In Week 15, they took a loss against the Chiefs, but those of us that watched know they very much could have come out with that win had they gone for a few field goals rather than 4th-down attempts.
The loss against the Texans was bad, no doubt about it. The Chargers were without big man wideout Mike Williams and stud Austin Ekeler on the offensive front, key cogs who were clearly missed.
Both Williams and Ekeler are healthy and ready to roll against Las Vegas.
The Chargers offense was not the only unit missing against Houston. Justin Jones, Joe Gaziano, and Derwin James were all out for the Chargers defense in Week 16.
The absence of Jones and Gaziano noticeably hurt the team’s run stopping ability. Allowing 31-year-old Rex Burkhead to run all over for two TDs and 149 yards is not a recipe for success.
While Gaziano is still dealing with an ankle injury and is questionable for Week 18, Jones is off the injury report and has been back since last week when the Chargers held the Broncos to under 100 rushing yards. James is back, as well, to bolster the secondary.
- Read our full SNF Raiders vs Chargers Predictions and Best Bets
The Raiders are also getting healthy. They have a slew of players recording limited practices this week, most noticeably Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller. Waller hasn’t played since Week 12, though it’s safe to assume every player on these two teams are pushing to play Sunday night.
Overcoming adversity has been the story of this Raiders team. Defensive end Maxx Crosby has one of the greatest stories of personal growth in the league. His growth as a player has been astounding, as well, as he has a significant lead in QB pressures this year.
Hunter Renfrow is defying expectations of the slot receiver prototype, and Derek Carr has shown he’s still capable of being the leading man on a winning football team. He’s no Justin Herbert, though.
At the end of the day, this Chargers team is dangerous. This is a team that just a few weeks ago beat the Bengals in Cincinnati. Herbert will compete for MVPs for years to come.
Near full health, expect to see the dominant Chargers team we’ve seen flashes of this season.
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Jared Cook Over 2.5 Receptions (-175) at TwinSpires
Wager: 1.25 Units
Seasoned veteran Jared Cook has developed a nice role for the Chargers, receiving more than five targets in each of his last three games. Cook is the team’s clear top option at TE after Donald Parham Jr. suffered a scary head injury in Week 15.
Keenan Allen and the aforementioned Williams and Ekeler all command their fair share of targets to be fed. When Herbert is cooking, there’s enough for everyone to eat. Herbert is third in the league in pass attempts.
This game should be highly competitive and both offenses get the added benefit of playing in a dome. The Chargers will be chucking it, and the Raiders seem content with limiting big plays while allowing TEs more of a window to produce.
The Raiders have allowed at least three catches to opposing tight ends in every game this year. They also allowed Cook to catch six passes for 70 yards and a TD in their first matchup earlier this year, and Parham also had two catches that game.
Look for Cook to be busy Sunday night in our NFL pick of the day.
Austin Ekeler Over 55.5 Rushing Yards (-115) at Caesers
Wager: 1 Unit
Yes, Herbert and the Chargers throw a lot. Ekeler still gets work done on the ground when called upon.
Ekeler has topped 56 yards in each of his past four games and nine of his 15 games this year. He’s topped 100 rushing yards just once this year, but that came in Week 4 against the same Las Vegas Raiders he faces this week.
In a game where I expect the Chargers to come out on top, look for them to control the game script and pound away with Ekeler in the run game to chew up clock and grind out a win.