Thanks to events that occurred this offseason, the AFC West is now considered to be the best division in the NFL. Three teams made several big-time additions, plus the Kansas City Chiefs have already established themselves as perennial contenders. Two of these new-look AFC West squads open up the season against one another, as the Las Vegas Raiders hit the road to take on the Los Angeles Chargers.
These two teams begin the new year exactly how they ended last year -- playing one other. In the regular-season finale on Jan. 9, the Raiders kicked a game-winning field goal in overtime to earn a playoff berth, downing the Chargers 35-32. Las Vegas leads the all-time series vs. L.A. 67-56-2 (including playoffs). The Raiders are seeking their fourth-straight win in a season opener, as well as their fourth-straight Week 1 win on the road. It's Derek Carr and Davante Adams vs. Justin Herbert and L.A.'s revamped defense. Who ya got?
Below, we will break down this matchup from a gambling perspective and examine the line movement, Over/Under and player props to consider. First, here's how you can watch Sunday's matchup.
All NFL odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
How to watch
This line hasn't seen any drastic movement. It opened up at LAC -4 on May 12, then dropped to LAC -3.5 on July 6. On Monday, Aug. 29, we saw the line dip to LAC -3, where it remained until this Friday, when it again bumped up to LAC -3.5.
The pick: Chargers -3.5. This game was not featured among my Super Bowl contender, and my pick to win the division. If I claim 2022 is going to be a special campaign for the Chargers, then I have to take them to win Week 1!. On one hand, I believe the Raiders are underrated. This is a team that made the playoffs last year after overcoming a mountain of adversity, and they just got better in the offseason. On the other hand, the Chargers in my mind are a legitimate
I don't like that new cornerback J.C. Jackson is doubtful to play due to an ankle issue, but he's not the only addition L.A. made on defense this offseason. The Chargers also traded for star linebacker Khalil Mack, and added some much-needed help in the trenches. L.A. had the third-worst run defense in the league last year, so the front office went out and acquired defensive tackles Austin Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day. When you throw in the fact that this Raiders team is playing its first game with a new head coach, I'll lay the points with the Chargers.
The total opened at 51.5 on May 12, but quickly fell to 49.5 the very next day. On May 16, it again bounced back up to 51.5, and saw another half-point increase to 52 on July 6. We saw a full-point increase to 53 on Sept. 6 for a moment, but it again fell back to 52, where it remains today.
The pick: Over 52. The Chargers were 10-7 in hitting the Over last season, per Team Rankings, which was tied for the third-best rate in the league. The Raiders were 8-10 with the Under being more common in 2021, but with the addition of Adams and an offensive-minded head coach like Josh McDaniels, I'm expecting more points. My lean is to the Over in Week 1. Who doesn't like to root for points?
Derek Carr interceptions: Over 0.5 (-115). Did you see how many interceptions were thrown on Thursday night between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams? Josh Allen threw two -- both in the first half -- and Matthew Stafford threw three. On the advice of our SportsLine experts, I same-game-parlayed both quarterbacks to throw at least one pick at +280, and am now wealthy. Jokes aside, I'm not against that same parlay in this matchup either, but sportsbooks see Carr as the more likely QB to throw a pick, and I tend to agree (Herbert Over 0.5 INTs is +102). Both Carr and Herbert threw interceptions in Week 1 last year.
Austin Ekeler receiving yards: Over 35.5 (-115). Ekeler recorded more than 35 receiving yards in nine out of 16 games played last season. What I like about this line is that Ekeler could pick half of this yardage up on one good screen play.
Dustin Hopkins made field goals: Over 1.5 (-123). Hopkins hit two or more field goals in 11 out of 17 games last year.
Flier: Davante Adams anytime touchdown +108