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Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders travel to LA to take on Justin Herbert and the Chargers on Monday night. Will the Chargers hand the Raiders their first loss of 2021? NFL expert Ben Gretch is here with his answer.
ANALYSIS

Monday Night Football Picks and Predictions: Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders Start Time, Where To Watch, and Odds

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders Key Notes

Derek Carr leads the NFL in attempted air yards with 1,227 and is tied for the league’s fourth-highest average pass depth at 9.0 yards. Opposing teams have attempted just 15 passes that have traveled more than 15 yards downfield against the Chargers, completing just four of them.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders Preview and Prediction

Monday Night Football has a high game total and looks like a shootout on paper, with a battle of two offenses that have looked fantastic so far in 2021. Justin Herbert has picked up right where he left off in his fantastic 2020 rookie season. In addition, Mike Williams has grown into a more complete receiver role, excelling at all depths after typically being treated as primarily a deep threat before 2021. His production in the short and intermediate depths of the field has taken some heat off of Keenan Allen. However, he remains a high-level target hog and gives Herbert a fantastic duo of receivers to pair with one of the best pass-catching backs in the league in Austin Ekeler.

On the other side, the Raiders have also gotten off to a hot start, with Derek Carr playing a bit bumpy in the first halves of each of his three games so far but looking like a Pro Bowler when it’s counted each week. The Raiders were able to erase a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to eventually beat the Ravens in overtime in Week 1, handled the Steelers and their struggling offense in Week 2, and then won yet another overtime game in Week 3 against the Dolphins.

One of the big ways Carr is finding success is down the field. Carr leads the NFL in passing yardage through three weeks with 1,203, and a big part of that is his league-high 1,227 air yards. Per Sharp Football Stats, Carr has thrown for 497 of his yards on passes that have traveled at least 15 yards downfield, a full 41% of his season total.

That’s a problem in this matchup against Brandon Staley’s defense that sits back and takes away the downfield pass. Last week, the Chargers beat the Chiefs just that way, forcing Kansas City to turn to Clyde Edwards-Helaire a decent amount for what was an efficient rushing day (17 carries, 100 yards), but taking away their explosive plays. As a result, Patrick Mahomes threw for just 260 yards on 44 attempts, while Tyreek Hill caught five of seven targets for just 56 yards.

One week prior, the Chargers did similar to Dak Prescott and the high-powered Cowboys’ passing game. In part, Dallas squeaked out a win in that one because they were able to execute on the ground — Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined for 180 rushing yards on 29 carries, while Prescott threw for just 237 yards on 27 passes.

So we know what the Chargers are going to try to do. I like yardage unders for Derek Carr and Henry Ruggs, but Carr could get things going with his elite tight end Darren Waller underneath. More practically, the Raiders are going to have to run the ball to contend in this one. They did that effectively last week with Peyton Barber, and Josh Jacobs (questionable) might be back.

But I like the Chargers here. The Raiders have played well in the second halves of games so far this year in large part because of their ability to push the ball down the field. So I like Herbert and the Chargers’ offense to carve up this Raiders D, and for the Raiders to find it a lot tougher to play from behind in this one.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders Pick

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Ben knows his football. A fantasy football expert who was most recently seen at CBS Sports, he'll be helping bettors find value ahead in the NFL with OddsChecker.

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