It’s only been four games, but the 2016 Oakland Raiders appear to be the franchise’s best team since they made the Super Bowl 14 years ago. After going 3-1 to start the season, Oakland might not have any trouble winning their first divisional matchup of the season.
The Raiders host the San Diego Chargers in Week 5, facing what is clearly the worst team in the AFC West. The Denver Broncos look even better than they did last year on their way to winning Super Bowl 50, and the Kansas City Chiefs are in the mix at 2-2. The Raiders are a legitimate playoff contender, and San Diego could see their postseason hopes unofficially end with a loss in Oakland, which would put them at 1-4 on the year.
Bad teams find ways to lose games, and that’s exactly what the Chargers have done this season. They’ve had the lead with two minutes remaining in every game, but they’ve made costly mistakes that have forced them to lose three of their four contests. Most recently, San Diego lost two fumbles in their own territory late in the fourth quarter, allowing the New Orleans Saints to come away with a win.
The Chargers continue to blow leads behind a subpar defense. San Diego has allowed at least 26 points in all three of their losses, and they’ve been especially bad against the pass. Averaging 237 passing yards in Weeks 2-4, Alex Smith threw for 368 yards against the Chargers in the season opener. A struggling Andrew Luck completed 65 percent of his passes for 331 yards against San Diego in Week 3, and only four other teams are allowing more yards through the air.
With cornerback Jason Verrett suffering an injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season, San Diego’s struggles against the pass will continue on Sunday. Derek Carr’s 104.6 passer rating is third among all quarterbacks that have started at least three games, and he’s proving to be one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Even against the Baltimore Ravens, who lead the league in total defense, he posted a 123.4 passer rating and led the Raiders to a 28-27 comeback on the road.
Oakland ranks fourth in total offense, but San Diego can score, as well. The Chargers are putting up 30 points per game, and Sunday’s game is expected to feature more points than any contest in Week 5 with an over/under of 50.5.
The Chargers might be able to keep pace with Oakland for the first three quarters, but the Raiders should be able to pull away in the fourth. Only the Atlanta Falcons, who have the league’s top-ranked offense, were able to outscore the Raiders, andOakland’s defense is slowly improving after a poor start.
After winning three games on the road, the Raiders should be able to cover the 3.5-point betting line at home and defeat a team that can’t stop beating itself.
Prediction: Oakland over San Diego, 34-24