In a clash of AFC West rivals, the Los Angeles Chargers led by Easton Stick will face off against the Las Vegas Raiders, who are turning to Aidan O’Connell in a battle of backup quarterbacks. The Thursday Night Football matchup in Week 15 promises intrigue as both teams look to rebound from recent losses.
The Raiders, coming off a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Vikings, are eager to make amends. Meanwhile, the Chargers aim to shake off a 24-7 defeat to the Broncos, a game that saw starting quarterback Justin Herbert ruled out for the season due to a fractured index finger.
Amid the backup quarterback trend dominating the league, Aidan O’Connell is set to start for the Raiders, quelling earlier rumors about Jimmy Garoppolo or Brian Hoyer taking the helm. With both teams looking to rebound, the stage is set for an unpredictable showdown.
While the previous week witnessed a mere seven total points from these two teams, expectations for more offensive action are high on Thursday night. One player poised for a standout performance, regardless of the starting quarterback, is Raiders rookie tight end Michael Mayer.
Mayer, who has solidified his position as TE1 in Vegas, has a favorable matchup, evident in his receiving yards prop set at 19.5 at FanDuel. The young tight end has consistently outperformed backup Austin Hooper, commanding significantly more playing time and demonstrating consistent contributions.
Although Mayer's numbers may not be eye-popping, with 20-plus receiving yards in two of his last three games, the stage is set for a breakout performance. A key factor in this prediction is the potential absence of running back Josh Jacobs due to a leg injury, leaving a depleted backfield and increasing the likelihood of passing plays.
Facing a Chargers defense ranked 25th in DVOA against the pass and heavily reliant on zone coverage, Mayer stands to benefit. His prowess against zone coverage, with a 1.22 yards-per-route-run rate, positions him as a prime target, especially considering the Chargers' tendency to funnel football to running backs and tight ends.
The absence of Josh Jacobs may lead to an increased focus on Mayer, as he becomes a crucial asset in exploiting gaps in the middle of the Chargers' defense. Throughout the season, tight ends have thrived against the Chargers, averaging 5.7 receptions and 60 yards per game, making it the sixth-highest yardage output among all defenses.
For Mayer to surpass the modest 19.5 receiving yards prop, he likely needs just two receptions. However, his ability to break down defenses and secure big gains makes him a promising candidate to exceed expectations. Early projections suggest Mayer could achieve 2.3 receptions and 25 receiving yards, but there's room for him to outperform these estimations.
As both teams seek redemption and offensive spark, the matchup promises to be a tactical battle. Despite concerns about the offenses' recent struggles, Michael Mayer emerges as a potential game-changer, steering the ship in the middle of the field and contributing to an unexpected offensive showcase on Thursday night.
This is Dez Barnes of Pretty Girls Love Sports, a journalist on the MTMV Sports platform. She is a retired US Army veteran, professional cheerleader, pet mom, and avid sports lover. Feel free to follow her writings as she dives into the latest sports news! You can find her on all social media channels @PGLOVESPORTS.