Playoffs or Bust: Chargers vs. Raiders predictions, Week 18

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  • Los Angeles Chargers
    Los Angeles Chargers
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Justin Herbert
    Justin Herbert
    American football player (1998–)

Welcome to the end of the regular season. It is Week 18 and playoffs are on the line.

Last week, the Chargers earned a decisive 34-13 victory over the Broncos. Simultaneously, losses by the Dolphins and Ravens boosted their chances of making their first postseason appearance since 2018 to 53%.

As a result, they once again control their playoff destiny and the path to the Wild Card spot is simple.

If the Bolts beat the Raiders on Sunday, they clinch a playoff berth. Both teams sit at the same 9-7 record, but Los Angeles holds the current tiebreaker via their 28-14 win during the first division matchup in Week 4.

Who’s going to come out on top?

Here are our final score predictions for the Week 18 bout:

Gavino's prediction

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs begin on Sunday for the Chargers, and if they’re going to play beyond Week 18, it largely comes down to the play of No. 10. Luckily, Justin Herbert shines the brightest when he plays under the lights. Herbert is 119-of-183 for 1,418 yards, 16 total touchdowns and two interceptions.

Defensively, Los Angeles’ key pieces are all healthy and it was on display last weekend in its win over the Broncos. With Justin Jones and Joey Bosa on the field, stopping the run is a lot better. When the starters in the secondary are all in place, especially Derwin James, it’s an entirely different energy.

The Raiders have found their stride, winning the last three games, with the defense being the bright spot. However, their offense has struggled to find efficiency. Las Vegas has only topped 23 points dating back to Oct. 25.

In these types of games, the best defense is offense and the Chargers’ high-powered unit will ultimately reign superior.

Chargers win, 30-24.

Cole's prediction

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The game will come down to a matter of execution. The Chargers are superior in talent and offensive firepower, but the last few weeks have delivered a mixed bag of results.

The team engaged in a shootout with the Chiefs in Week 15, allowing Patrick Mahomes, who led a comeback with just over two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles succumbed in overtime on Kansas City’s opening drive.

Next, they followed up the disappointing defeat with a disastrous 41-29 road loss to the Texans. The defense was thoroughly gashed on the ground by Rex Burkhead and gave up a 130.6 passer rating to rookie quarterback Davis Mills.

The win against Denver saw quarterback Justin Herbert set the single-season franchise record for touchdown passes and running back Austin Ekeler return from the COVID-19 list. L.A. jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.

The Chargers have undoubtedly dealt with nagging inconsistency toward the end of the season. But Herbert’s strong rebound and a healthy Ekeler means the offense will be operating at full strength at its most crucial hour.

The Raiders enter the game on a three-game win streak but have defeated those opponents (Browns, Broncos, and Colts) by a combined nine points. Quarterback Derek Carr has passed for 300 or more yards just once since the Raiders’ Week 8 bye. He also has not thrown for multiple touchdowns in a game since their Week 14 loss to the Chiefs, while Herbert has found the end zone at least twice in seven of his last eight starts.

The Raiders lack the explosiveness to compete with the Chargers in a toe-to-toe brawl between the offenses. Los Angeles should expect a worry-free victory if Herbert and Co. set the tone early with early scores, control the game on the ground, and stay turnover-free.

Chargers win, 31-20.

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