Thursday Night Football
Oakland @ San Diego
Darren McFadden has yet to resume jogging after an October 23 mid-foot sprain, so Michael Bush will pick up a second straight start. A bell-cow when working with the first-team offense, Bush has made four starts since Hue Jackson took over as Oakland's playcaller last year. In them, Bush has averaged 25 touches for 123.5 total yards per game, with three touchdowns while playing 255-of-265 snaps (96.2%). Bush is an every-down back, "losing" only two touches to rookie change-of-pace Taiwan Jones last Sunday. The Chargers rank 18th against the run and permit 4.53 yards per carry, so this is a favorable matchup for Oakland's rushing attack. Bush is the best fantasy bet on either side in this game. ... Carson Palmer displayed plenty of zip on intermediate and deep throws during his first start as a Raider last week, throwing for 332 yards and three touchdowns. Palmer racked up attempts in pass-heavy comeback mode, however, and was facing Denver's 23rd-ranked pass defense. San Diego ranks fourth in the league against the pass, and this game doesn't project as much of a shootout as Oakland's 38-24 Week 9 loss. Palmer has the ability and supporting cast to flirt with QB1 value the rest of the way, but I'd want to consider him more of a QB2 until we see Palmer produce against a top-flight NFL pass defense.
Oakland emerged from its Week 8 bye with a new pecking order at receiver. Darrius Heyward-Bey (0 yards) was demoted to a part-timer off the bench, while Denarius Moore (4-61) is now the starting split end and Jacoby Ford (5-105-1) the flanker. T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1-28) and Chaz Schilens (2-20) are sharing time in the slot. The rotation is subject to change, but at this point in time Heyward-Bey is not a fantasy option. It certainly doesn't instill confidence that DHB has one catch for 10 yards in two career meetings with San Diego. Housh and Schilens can't be trusted, either. ... In Week 9, Moore played predominantly on the left side of the formation with Ford on the right. If this trend holds, Ford will likely spend the majority of this game in Chargers top CB Quentin Jammer's coverage. San Diego has shuffled bodies at the other corner position, where both Antoine Cason and rookie Marcus Gilchrist have experienced benchings since late October. If I'm betting on a player to lead Oakland in receiving Thursday night, my money would be on Denarius Moore. ... Like Heyward-Bey, Kevin Boss wasn't involved in the Raiders' post-bye game plan, playing one snap against Denver and failing to catch a pass. Brandon Myers (1-11) started, but was on the field for only 21 downs while being out-produced by FB Marcel Reece (3-51-1).
Philip Rivers delivered his best fantasy game of the year in Week 9 against Green Bay, throwing for season-highs in yards (385) and touchdowns (4) while attempting 46 passes, his most since Week 1. Box scores may suggest Rivers is catching fire with two straight games over 360 yards, but the eye in the sky doesn't lie. I watched all 48 of Rivers' Week 9 drop backs (two were sacks), and considered 21 of his 46 throws (45.7%) to be inaccurate -- either too far ahead of or behind the intended target, or off the mark entirely. 25 were accurately thrown -- either caught or dropped. That's in comparison to Aaron Rodgers, who threw accurately 22-of-26 times (84.6%). The Chargers came out with a run-heavy approach, perhaps in an effort to protect their struggling, wild quarterback, but tried 31 second-half passes after two Rivers pick-sixes got them in an early hole. "I really believe there's something going on (with Rivers)," said NFL Network's Mike Mayock on PFT Live this week. "I feel so badly for him. I don't know if he's hurt and not letting people know." While this is a favorable matchup against an Oakland defense that ranks 20th against the pass and will be without starting corner Demarcus Van Dyke (hamstring), I wouldn't trust Rivers to turn his season around in the long run. He's a low-end QB1 on Thursday night.
Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates saved Rivers repeatedly against the Packers, getting open consistently and making tough catches downfield or over the middle. Despite their quarterback's struggles, V-Jax and Gates need to stay locked into fantasy lineups. In his last three matchups with the Raiders, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Jackson is averaging six catches for 103 yards per game, with a touchdown in each. ... Gates' last two lines against Oakland: 6-73-1 and 5-92-1. ... Rookie Vincent Brown will get another start in place of Malcom Floyd, but doesn't seem to have earned Rivers' confidence yet. Brown wasn't so much as targeted in the first two quarters against Green Bay, recording all four of his receptions for 79 yards in the pass-heavy second half, mostly on dump-off throws. ... Both of these teams are obviously playing on a short week and don't figure to be at 100 percent physically. The Raiders' defensive line could be particularly affected after getting ransacked for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries (7.87 YPC) by the Broncos' rushing attack last week. The Chargers may look to "ease back" Ryan Mathews from a groin strain, but will likely stay with him if he's hot early. During the six games in which both Mathews and Mike Tolbert have been healthy, Mathews is averaging 20.3 touches to Tolbert's 12.5.
Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Raiders 17
Check out Gregg Rosenthal's analysis on Thursday night's matchup.