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Thursday Night Football preview: Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders

Two teams with little to play for meet at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas as the Las Vegas Raiders play host to AFC West rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers.

Both teams have dropped to 5-8 for the season, and injuries have also derailed what could have been a lively affair. 

Mathematically, the playoffs are not out of reach, but with plenty of competition in the AFC, it is highly likely that these two teams are planning for 2024 already.

WhatLos Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders
WhereAllegiant Stadium, Las Vegas
When8:15 PM ET, Thursday, December 14
How to watchAmazon Prime
OddsLA Chargers +140 ML, LV Raiders -3.0

Herbert's injury ends Chargers' hopes

The Chargers' struggles have been well-documented this season, but not many of their problems can be attributed to quarterback Justin Herbert.

Herbert is 11th in the league for passing yards, but he will soon start tumbling down the rankings after he was ruled out for the season.

The 25-year-old will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on the broken index finger on his throwing hand. Herbert suffered the injury during last week's 24-7 defeat to the Denver Broncos, another of their AFC West rivals.

Chargers fans have been calling for change after another disappointing campaign, but there has been no drop in belief in Herbert, who will now watch on from the stands.

Easton Stick replaced him against Denver and is expected to see out the campaign.

Read More: 2023 NFL player injuries

O'Connell under pressure on home turf

When the Raiders turned to interim coach Antonio Pierce earlier this season, he wasted no time in turning to rookie quarterback Aidan O'Connell.

Pierce decided that Jimmy Garoppolo had not done enough in the first few weeks of his interim tenure, but that may be a decision he reverses this week.

O'Connell made his debut against the Chargers in October, and it turned out to be a humbling experience for him. He was sacked seven times, while he fumbled three times and lost two of those. The youngster was also picked off once in a 24-17 defeat and the Chargers will expect to feast on him once again.

Khalil Mack secured six of his league-leading 15 sacks that night, and he is -165 to record another sack on Thursday.

Surprisingly, for all of O'Connell's struggles that night, it was not his worst performance of the season. That came last week in the 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings stacked the box against the Raiders, forcing O'Connell to throw long downfield and he could not come up with the answers. 

In seven games this season, O'Connell has thrown for 1,365 yards while throwing four touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Pierce may now need to turn back to Garoppolo to try and get some momentum behind the team, and it would not be a surprise to see O'Connell drop to the bench if he starts slowly.

Is Staley on borrowed time?

The Chargers have stood by coach Brandon Staley despite the recent criticism from the stands and media, but how they end the season could decide his future.

Staley has tried to defend himself and his coaching staff throughout the campaign. But things will get more difficult with Herbert out for the rest of the season.

Stick does not have enough experience in the NFL, and he faces a Raiders defense that is led by DE Maxx Crosby. Crosby has continued to shine despite a knee injury, and he now has 13.5 sacks on the year.

Crosby, who is -180 to register a sack, will feel that he can get to Stick and this game seems primed to be a defensive struggle.

As well as O'Connell's poor performances, the Raiders are sweating the availability of running back Josh Jacobs who is listed as questionable with a quad injury. Offensive tackle Kolton Miller and center Andre James are also out, so the Raiders may struggle to establish anything on the ground.

If the Raiders find a way to succeed, it could be the final straw for Staley, but we should not expect a high-scoring game.

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