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Thursday Night Preview: Who Has the Advantage in This AFC West Clash?

This Thursday Night Football contest features two AFC West teams in similar spots -- looking up, chasing the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs. Both the Oakland Raiders (4-4) and Los Angeles Chargers (4-5) are in the thick of the divisional race, and they really need this contest to keep pace.

From our power ranks, neither team is impressive, as we have the Raiders (19th) a spot better than the Chargers (20th). It won't be a marquee matchup, but it should be a close one.

So, which team will come out on top? Let's dig in and find out.

Quarterback Breakdown

Both of these veteran signal-callers have been pretty darn efficient in 2019.

Among the 34 quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs, Derek Carr ranks seventh in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back (0.29), and Philip Rivers has been no slouch, sitting 10th (0.29).

In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which result in a positive NEP -- Carr also has the edge, checking sixth (52.12%) to Rivers' still strong mark of 11th (50.72%).

In looking at average intended air yards (the average air yards a passer throws on all attempts), this one is a blood bath. Rivers has been solid in this department with a mark of 8.8, whereas Carr has been playing a game of dink-and-dunk, posting a clip of 6.6

With strong play from both quarterbacks, who rank as season-long fantasy QB14 and QB15 this season, who has the edge in the running game?

Running Back Play

This would be a lot more interesting if Los Angeles would give the rock to Austin Ekeler, but alas, Melvin Gordon has been the workhorse back recently, and that's not good for the Chargers.

Among running backs with 50 or more carries, Gordon ranks as the third-worst back in the NFL in terms of Rushing NEP per carry (-0.16). Ekeler, meanwhile, has been solid with a mark of -0.02. Gordon out-rushed Ekeler 20 to 12 in Week 9, with each garnering four targets.

On the other side of the matchup, rookie Josh Jacobs has been a beast in his debut season. Jacobs ranks 12th among the same group of runners with a rate of 0.05, and he has seen the ball plenty, with 152 carries on the year.

From an overall perspective, Oakland's rushing attack ranks 14th, while the Chargers rank second-worst. Oakland also features a run-heavy approach with a 1.15 pass-to-run ratio, while Los Angeles slings the ball around a bit more with a 1.77 pass-to-run ratio.

Defensive Matchup

Part of the struggles out of the gates for both of these teams is their atrocious defensive units. Per numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics, the Chargers rank 26th overall in defense, while Oakland is 29th.

Diving a little deeper, at least Oakland has been solid shutting down the run. They rank 12th against the ground game but are third-worst against the pass. LA has been equally generous against the pass (25th) or the run (27th).

Both teams stink at getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. In Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, Los Angeles checks in slightly better at 17th (7.1%), whereas Oakland ranks 24th (5.8%).

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