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Thursday Night Football Preview: Chargers @ Raiders

Thursday December 24, 2015
San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders

Tis the season and we are being blessed with a game from the illustrious AFC West. All these teams are playing for at this point is positioning in the draft. However, for the first time in a long time, the Raiders appear to be heading in the right direction with a ton of young talent on both sides of the ball. Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray and Clive Walford could be a very dangerous young corps for a very long time. Khalil Mack is also becoming an absolute monster on defense. The Raiders’ defense isn’t good, but they do have the makings of a potentially solid defense. The Chargers, not so much. Perhaps on defense, nonetheless, that offense appears to have peaked as currently constructed.

San Diego Chargers: Key Players
QB Philip Rivers
Rivers was great early in the season, however, pretty much all of his weapons have been injured all season. The offense has fallen apart and his fantasy production has reflected it. Still the Raiders defense has been pretty terrible against the pass ranking 28th in the league in passing defense.
Verdict: Start Rivers. We like him this week despite his steep decline in the second half of the season. Being forced to insert Danny Woodhead in the offense should actually be very helpful.

RB Danny Woodhead
Speaking of the devil. Woodhead should see a ton of touches with Melvin Gordon now on injured reserve with a knee injury. Gordon has had a disappointing rookie campaign, however, understandably the team wanted to get him reps since they have little else to play for at this point. Now it should be the Woodhead show for the most part.
Verdict: Start Woodhead. He’s coming off a monster week. While we don’t expect him to score four TDs this week, he should be a very viable option.

WR Stevie Johnson
Johnson has a shot to return from a groin injury this week after missing time. If he plays he’s worth consideration as a starter. Just be sure to check if he’s active before you plug him in. No other Chargers’ receiver is startable on championship week.
Verdict: Start Johnson. I’m more being nice here. You can really go either way. No one would fault you for benching him either.

TE Antonio Gates
Gates has been very consistent as of late. He has six catches in each of his past three games and at least 50 yards in his last four. With all the injuries to TEs, odds are you can’t bench him even if you wanted to. Old reliable is still a very safe and dependable source of fantasy production.
Verdict: Start Gates. There are few tight ends I trust more than him outside the elite on championship week.

Oakland Raiders: Key Players
QB Derek Carr
Carr is having a great sophomore season with 3,589 passing yards, 30 TDs and 11 interceptions. However, he has seen a significant drop off since hitting the half way point of the season. We don’t expect him to turn it around much on Thursday. The Chargers have actually been pretty solid when it comes to slowing down fantasy QBs, they are top 10 in the league. On the other hand, they are awful against running backs, which could limit Carr’s usage this week to an extent. His completions and attempts per game have been wildly inconsistent since hitting that half way point we mentioned.
Verdict: Sit Carr. We don’t hate Carr, however, we believe there are better options for this crucial week.

RB Latavius Murray
As we mentioned, the Chargers pretty bad against running backs. They are allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing RBs. Murray should be in line for a huge week. If you have him on your roster, he should more than likely be in your lineup. He’s been up and down this year, but we think he’ll be up this week.
Verdict: Start Murray. He has seen a high-volume of touches over the past four games averaging more than 20 touches per game, the volume alone gives him value against that defense.

WR Amari Cooper
Cooper has had an up and down rookie season. His ups are unbelievable but his downs are as bad as his ups are good. He has a touch matchup this week against Jason Verrett who has quietly developed into an excellent corner this season.
Verdict: Start Cooper. He’s risky, but his upside makes him worth it. As a rookie he has 68 receptions for 1,040 yards and six TDs with two games left to play.

WR Michael Crabtree
It pains me to say, but Crabtree has been way better this season than I thought he would be. He has 76 receptions for 849 yards and seven touchdowns. Still, it’s very unsettling starting Crabtree in a big spot like this.
Verdict: Sit Crabtree. This is a gut feeling because I just don’t trust this guy. Granted, my gut has been wrong on him overall for the season. Nonetheless, I just feel like he’s destined to let everyone down.

Final Score
San Diego: 20
Oakland: 28

Best Play
Chargers: Danny Woodhead
Raiders: Latavius Murray

Sleeper
Clive Walford

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