Top 4 Things You Should Know About... Chargers-Raiders

Hey, it's a Monday Night Football Double-Header! And for those of you on the East Coast who may be staying up until 1:30 am to watch this game, here's what to sleepily look for.

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Every Monday here at numberFire, I'll be taking an in-depth look at the Monday Night game, just like I did with the Bengals-Ravens game earlier today. But tonight, you get a doubleheader! And it's brought to you by the sultry, sexy voice of Chris Berman along with Trent Dilfer. The ESPN duo isn't the only thing to look forward to (muting) tonight, as the Chargers-Raiders match-up could be a sneaky good game.

.500 or Bust!

The Raiders have made a habit of finishing with a .500 record the past couple of seasons, finishing with that even 8-8 record and third in the AFC West each of the past two years. numberFire doesn't like their chances of equaling that mark this season, though, with the Raiders projected to have the second-highest drop in wins of any NFL team. That projected 5-11 record would not be out of the ordinary for the Raiders; their last winning season as a franchise came in the 2002 Super Bowl year. Even winning division games such as these aren't necessarily a precursor to success. Remember the 2010 season where the Raiders swept the division games, only to lose to Miami, Jacksonville, and Arizona en route to another .500 record? Fun times... if you were a Chiefs fan whose team had little competition for the division crown. If the Raiders are going to reverse their recent fortunes, wins against evenly-matched teams are crucial.

...And they could do it too

With the Chargers on the opposite side of the coin as the Raiders, not having a losing season since 2003, many may forget that it has been the Bay Area that has dominated the series in recent years. The Chargers took the final game between these two teams last season 38-26 on New Year's Day to force that three-way tie on top of the AFC West at 8-8. Before that though? The Raiders had won three straight in the series, all of which by a touchdown or greater, and two of those came in San Diego. The 17 points the Raiders defense gave up to the Chargers on week 10 last year was the second-lowest amount they gave up all season. In that game, the Raiders were much more efficient while on offense: their 7.8 yards per play destroyed San Diego's 4.6 yards per play mark. In all past four games between these two teams, the Raiders have kept up that high-flying offense and scored at least 24 points each time. With an over/under of 46.0 points for this game, the Raiders look like they're likely to do their end of the bargain.

We Must Be Swift as the Coursing Rivers

Philip Rivers entered the season as the #9 QB on numberFire's initial draft kit, but as the preseason has gone on, some have jumped off the bandwagon because of his annoying little tendency to throw interceptions in huge situations. Don't be one of those fantasy owners if you have Rivers on your team. As noted by numberFire Chief Analyst Keith Goldner, Rivers had his worst statistical season since 2006 and still ended up contributing 129.64 Net Expected Points to the Chargers last season. That was miles better than fellow AFC West QBs Carson Palmer (51.79 NEP), Matt Cassel (-3.73 NEP), and Tim Tebow (I think my Excel spreadsheet just laughed at me). He was projected to have the ninth-highest amount of fantasy points among all players according to the numberFire projections, entering the weekend at 17.98 points. I'm not backing away from that now, especially against the #31 defense in numberFire's 2011 rankings.

Ain't No Party Like a Run-DMC Party

Rivers isn't the only big fantasy name in this game that numberFire expects to break out. If you're facing Darren McFadden this week in fantasy and only have a single-digit lead entering the final game of the week, I would be afraid. Very afraid. McFadden was projected before the week to have the fifth-highest fantasy points output of any running back, sandwiched in between Chris Johnson (gulp) and Jamaal Charles (who had 87 yards rushing on only 16 carries). McFadden has a much higher upside than those two though because of his touchdown ability: his projected 0.88 rushing TDs was third most among all projections behind Arian Foster and LeSean McCoy. The big reason is simply the number of carries he's expected to get as the feature back. numberFire has him at 16.76 attempts on the game. That's not unusual either, he had at least 16 carries in five of his six full starts before falling to injury last season. We're not as high on him as many other places for the year, due to his injury risk as well as a 30% success rate at increasing Oakland's scoring chances on his rushes. But with Michael Bush no longer around to steal goal line carries, McFadden has real value against a weak defense (#27 in numberFire's 2011 rankings) tonight.