Everything that the LA Chargers needed to happen in Week 17 for their playoff chances ended up happening. The Chargers needed both the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins to lose and they needed to beat the Denver Broncos and they did so handily.
Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Raiders did exactly what they needed to do as well. They shocked the NFL by beating the red-hot Indianapolis Colts to keep their playoff hopes alive. Now, the Raiders and Chargers enter their Week 18 showdown with the simple, yet exciting, storyline: win and get in.
Whoever wins this game will get in the playoffs and the loser will more than likely miss out on the playoffs. While it theoretically could happen, a lot of other things would need to happen that are just unlikely; starting with the Colts losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Because it is such a big game, the NFL decided to flex the matchup to Sunday Night Football. It will be the second Chargers-Raiders game on primetime this season and will be the last game of the 2021 regular season.
Moving the game to primetime favors the LA Chargers over the Las Vegas Raiders
Charger fans should already feel pretty confident about the Bolts heading into this matchup. The Chargers have more talent on paper and the Raiders have really struggled offensively to score many points. They are also one of the most volatile teams in the league, so after a big win, there is a chance that the ugly Raiders come out.
However, anything can happen in a divisional game so Charger fans cannot get too comfortable, especially considering what is at stake against the Chargers' biggest rivals. However, the game getting moved to primetime should make fans feel more comfortable about the outcome.
There are three words why a primetime slot is better for the Chargers: primetime Justin Herbert. Herbert, who is already a top-five quarterback in the league, plays his best football under the bright lights. For whatever reason, Herbert shows up when a national audience is watching him and this could be the biggest audience he has played in front of in his career.
Justin Herbert has played in five primetime games. In 2020 he played the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football and the Las Vegas Raiders (also in Vegas) on Thursday Night Football. This season he has played the Raiders on Monday Night Football, the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football and the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football.
In those five games, per Daniel Popper of The Athletic, Herbert has 1,418 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, two interceptions, 132 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns all with a 65% completion rate. That means he averages 283.6 yards and 3.2 total touchdowns on primetime.
The Chargers are 3-2 in these primetime games but easily could be 5-0. Michael Badgley missed the game-winning field goal that instead sent the game to overtime against the Saints last season and the Chiefs simply won the toss in overtime this season. Against the Raiders in two primetime games, Herbert is 2-0 with an overtime win and one of the easiest wins this season.
Justin Herbert has also torched the Raiders thus far in his career. In three career starts against the Raiders, Herbert has 862 passing yards, seven passing touchdowns, no interceptions and a rushing touchdown all with a 66.96% completion rate.
As the saying goes, anything can happen on any given Sunday but it is hard to not like the Chargers' chances of winning this game even more after the game was flexed to Sunday Night Football.