NFL Week 18 Best Bets: Chargers vs. Raiders Sunday Night Football Picks

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Justin Herbert #10 and Stephen Anderson #82 of the Los Angeles Chargers celebrate. Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images/AFP

The Chargers and Raiders clash on Sunday Night Football. Here is betting advice for the game. Top sportsbooks have released their NFL odds for Sunday night’s Week 18 game between the Chargers and Raiders.

Both teams will want to win in order to clinch a playoff spot and in order to keep their division rival from making the playoffs. Because of what’s at stake, this game will feature a playoff-type atmosphere. For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Sunday, January 9, 2022- 08:20 PM EST at Allegiant Stadium 

Gus Bradley's Fading Defense 

Raider defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has been bounced around from team to team. One thing that keeps him from holding a job for too long and being a long-term solution is that his scheme does not work for long.

While opposing offenses figure out how to attack his defenses, Bradley fails to make necessary adjustments. Hence, Bradley-led defenses will start out relatively strong. But then they will get worse.

This year, in Las Vegas' case, the Raiders initially owned an average defense. But, as evident in their change in scoring defense ranking, they now have one of the NFL's worst defenses.
Currently, they rank 24th in limiting opposing scoring.

Bradley's Cover 3

Bradley is known for his cover 3 defense which features a single-high safety look. With one safety patrolling the middle of the back end, the field is practically divided into thirds. Two outside cornerbacks will man each side while the safety remains in the middle.

This alignment entails the following risky scenario: if either cornerback should fail in his coverage assignment, then the opposing wide receiver will be able to easily connect with his quarterback on the deep ball.

Cover 3, or at least Bradley's rendition of it, is more vulnerable to big plays from the opposing quarterback. The Raiders will thus not want to face a team with significant weapons in the deep passing game. Now, it would be great if Bradley could count on his team having a strong pass rush.

Because even granted that his secondary is more vulnerable in the back end, an opposing quarterback will require more time to allow his wide receivers' deep routes to develop. If a pass rush prevents the opposing quarterback from having that extra time, then the quarterback will be sacked or hurried and so he'll fail to even attempt a deep ball.

Therefore, Vegas will want to face a team with meager pass protection.

A Bad Matchup for Bradley

Given its strengths and personnel, L.A. has an offense that matches up well against Vegas' defense.
While the Raiders don't want to face a team with downfield passing, Justin Herbert is a dangerous weapon.

The Charger quarterback likes to throw downfield and is extremely effective at doing so. He owns the fifth-best deep-ball completion percentage. Herbert has, above all, Mike Williams to rely on downfield. The latter is not particularly speedy. But he excels at making the most out of contested catch opportunities.

The former Oregon Duck is able to amass deep ball opportunities because of his strong pass protection. The Chargers rank fifth-best at limiting the opposing sack rate. Vegas has faced teams that, like L.A., boast both weapons in the downfield passing game and reliable pass protection.

The Chiefs, for example, boast both and, accordingly, amassed over 40 points in their two wins this year over the Raiders. Of course, the Chargers also rely on their explosive running back duo, Austin Ekeler, and Justin Jackson.

Both promise to thrive against Vegas' 21st-ranked run defense (as measured by opposing rush yards per game). Ekeler loves facing the Raiders: In their first meeting this year, he ran for 117 yards on 15 attempts despite not running for more than 20 yards on a single play. Know this history for your sports betting.

Las Vegas' Struggling Offense

It's impossible to like the Raiders when you don't like their defense. Behind mostly poor offensive line play, the Raider ground game has been a problem all year. Vegas ranks 29th in rushing yards per game.

Instead, the Raiders rely heavily on Derek Carr who loves to go deep. But Carr lost his favorite deep target Henry Ruggs. While tight end Darren Waller should return, his presence has failed to solve Vegas' scoring problems.

With Waller playing and even playing extremely well, the Raiders still only scored 16 against the Giants, 14 against the Chiefs, and 13 against the Bengals. Since their bye week, they've failed to reach 20 points seven times in nine games. Keep this trend in mind for your best bets.

They'll continue to struggle against a Charger defense led in the secondary by Michael Davis, whose track record is all the more impressive given the quality of receivers he's locked down, and by former All-Pro selection Chris Harris.

The Verdict 

L.A. will score in droves behind its strong running back duo, its reliable pass protection, and its ability to exploit Vegas' pass coverage.

Meanwhile, the Raiders lack the weapons to keep pace especially with its anemic run-blocking, its lack of deep threats, and L.A.'s strong pass coverage. For the above reasons, count on the Chargers to win by over a touchdown for your NFL picks.

NFL Pick: Chargers -3 (+100) with Bovada (visit our Bovada Review)

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Chargers -3 (+100)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.