Last week, the early games on Sunday did not bode very well for me. On Sunday’s 1:00 games, I went 3-5 against the spread and 4-4 in terms of picking winners. But I nailed every single one of the late games as well as Monday night, to finish the week 8-6 against the spread and 10-4 picking straight winners.
That brings my season totals to 86-75 against the spread and 103-57-1 picking straight. At worst, if I can maintain last week’s results for the final six weeks, I’ll be happy with this year’s picks overall.
* All lines come from ESPN.com.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) at Oakland Raiders (0-10)
Thursday, November 20 at 8:25 pm ET on CBS/NFL Network
*Line: Raiders (+7.5)
As you may recall from predictions made at the beginning of the year, the Raiders were the last team I pegged to win a game this year with an 0-10 start. Well, that’s certainly one prediction that has come true. It also means that I projected this week’s matchup to be the Raiders’ first win of the season. Now to be fair, I had also projected the Chiefs to be 4-6 at this point in the season. So my initial projection that the Raiders would get the upset win over a divisional opponent at home seems a lot less plausible now than it seemed at the beginning of September.
If I’m making an argument for how the Raiders win this game, it really rests on the short week screwing with the Chiefs and them laying an egg. That’s plausible given the nature of Thursday night games, as the short week can really conflict with a team’s preparation. But that knife cuts both ways.
The key for the Raiders will be slowing down Jamaal Charles, which nobody has really done since he missed the Week 3 game due to injury. Since then, he’s averaged 96.3 rushing yards per game, 5.5 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns over the past seven games. But according to Football Outsiders the Raiders’ run defense is surprisingly underrated, ranking 14th best in their DVOA metrics. So if that run defense shows up and keeps Charles out of the end zone, they can find success.
Football Outsiders also indicates that the Raiders are very good at defending tight ends, ranking them 4th best defense against tight ends this season. That bodes well, since Travis Kelce is the Chiefs’ primary difference maker. Alex Smith has yet to complete a touchdown pass to a wide receiver this season, so if that trend continues coupled with containing Charles, this could be a very low-scoring affair.
That will be necessary for the Raiders to win, since their offense has proven incapable of putting up a lot of points. The problem for the Raiders is going to be whether rookie Derek Carr can hold up as the Raiders will be putting one of the league’s worst right tackles in Menelik Watson up against one the premier edge-rushers in Justin Houston. That’s a recipe for disaster for the Raiders offense, so they will need to rely on their ground game and possibly a couple of turnovers to swing things in their direction.
But since it’s a Thursday night game and I have consistently gotten those wrong this year, maybe I should pick against everything that logic is telling me to do?
It’s also worth noting that the only time Andy Reid and Tony Sparano have squared off against each as head coaches, it resulted in the latter’s dismissal from the Dolphins in 2011 following a 26-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Will that play a factor into tonight’s game? Absolutely not. But it’s an interesting piece of trivia.
Spread Pick: Raiders
Straight Pick: Chiefs