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TNF Staff Picks: A fight for the bottom of the AFC West with Chargers and Raiders both starting backup quarterbacks

Easton Stick will be leading the Chargers into their TNF game against their division rivals, the Las Vegas Raiders, after Justin Herbert was ruled out for the rest of the season. Which team will lose and move to a likely last place finish in the AFC West?

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Hello Bolts From the Blue,

Brandon Staley’s Los Angeles Chargers are now all but eliminated from playoff contention sitting at 5-8 and they are surely starting to think further ahead than the end of this season. Brandon Staley’s miserable season continued with a humiliating loss and his time leading the Bolts is likely coming to an end. That said, there is still four games to be played before the major decisions surrounding the players, coaches and the front office execs are due to commence. The first of these games is this TNF matchup with their AFC West rivals, the Las Vegas Raiders, their second primetime clash of the 2023 season.

Tonight we are set to witness the first Chargers’ game without Justin Herbert at the helm since his now infamous debut on September 20th 2020. The Bolts’ franchise quarterback suffered a fractured right index finger during the embarrassing loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 14. On Tuesday it was confirmed that Herbert was booked in to have surgery and as a result he would be placed on injured reserve which would mean the end of his season. The Chargers’ backup quarterback, Easton Stick, took over when Herbert exited last Sunday’s game and put in a mixed display, he started off very shakily but grew into the game including a well constructed touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to score the Bolts’ only points of the night. The run game saw a slight boost compared to previous weeks, Austin Ekeler looked like his 2022 self after motivated by seeing fewer snaps as part of the runnning back rotation. If he is able to take that form into this next week then he can help Kellen Moore overcome the loss of Herbert.

The DraftKings Sportsbook oddsmakers have made it clear that they think the Chargers offense is going to find life very difficult under Stick’s leadership because they have declared the Bolts as 3-point underdogs to the Raiders despite Antonio Pierce’s team failing to score a single point against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14. This was their third loss in a row and this has mainly been down to their struggling offense. Aidan O’Connell has looked very much like a mid round rookie in his seven starts this season, only managing to score four touchdowns. However the one part of the Raiders’ offense that has been somewhat reliable has been the run game yet this is in serious danger as Josh Jacobs left last week’s loss with a quad injury and is looking likely to miss this game on a short week. Jacobs has accounted for 80% of their running yards and 30% of their entire offense so if the system is now trying to replace his skills with that of an underwhelming backup in Zamir White, then their offensive output is going to be diminished below what it already has been.

DraftKings Sportsbook have set the total at 34 and that for me might still be generous. Both defenses have shown promise when facing inferior offenses; Khalil Mack and Maxx Crosby have been dominant pass rushers that have led their teams to some rugged wins in tough weeks. So I think the under at -110 is a must in this one! However when it comes to picking a winner, this gets a lot tougher. The key is which of the backup quarterbacks has had more real game snaps in this offense, I think O’Connell having seen this Chargers’ defense already is the key advantage that makes me lean towards the Raiders’ moneyline odds at -155 however the best value is the Bolts to cover the field goal spread at -110 as this game could legitimately be scoreless going into the third quarter.

Injuries to Consider

Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert is on IR. Keenan Allen and Deane Leonard are Out. Amen Ogbongbemiga, Otito Ogbonnia and Donald Parham Jr. are all Questionable.

Las Vegas Raiders

Devante Adams, Adam Butler, Maxx Crosby, Brandon Facyson and Josh Jacobs are all Questionable. Andre James and Kolton Miller are Out.

Here is how the BFTB staff sees this game breaking down:

What do you think, BFTB? Any of you placing bets tonight?