After their 12-4 record in 2016 and their 2-0 start this year the Raiders looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Then they lost three straight games while their franchise QB suffered a broken bone in his back.
After their 5-11 record in 2016 and their 0-4 start this year the Chargers looked like … well, the Chargers. Then they beat a really bad Giants team and provided hope that they will not be the worst team in the NFL.
On Sunday they meet in the Relocation Bowl at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Fernando Ramirez looks at the Chargers keys to win while Derek Togerson focuses on what the Raiders have to do to win.
Chargers Key #1: Get After Carr
It is no secret that Raiders quarterback Derek Carr isn’t 100 percent. In week 3 versus the Denver Broncos, Carr hurt his back and it was first reported he would be out 4-6 weeks. He is back after one missed game, which is nothing short of miraculous, but if he is on the field he can play. The Chargers will need Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa to hit him all game long. Now, the Raiders have a good offensive line that has only allowed 15 quarterback hits, which is the best in the NFL. Chargers defensive coach Gus Bradley will need to dial up different blitz combinations to keep Carr on his toes all game long.
Raiders Key #1: Keep Your Carr Clean
Derek Carr has a broken bone on a vertebrae in his back. It’s not serious, just painful as all get out, so Carr … who was initially expected to miss 2-6 weeks … is back in the lineup after missing just one game. With Carr driving the offense it has the potential to be one of the best units in the game. But if Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are able to get to him Oakland’s attack can be stymied (as seen against the Redskins in Week 3). It will be paramount for a Raiders veteran offensive line that has underachieved this year to get back to its old dominating ways.
Chargers Key #2: Mix and Match
The Chargers offense will need to mix and match the passing and rushing game this weekend. The Raiders don’t have a good defense and the Chargers will need to take advantage of that to win this game. Running back Melvin Gordon is coming off a strong game last weekend versus the Giants and he even won AFC Offensive Player of the Week. The Raiders defense is 8th worse allowing 124.6 rushing yards a game and 15th against the pass with 226.6 yards a game. The Chargers should use a lot of play action to open up the passing game. They will have their rookie receiver this weekend in Mike Williams as he will make his debut in the “Black Hole.” He will most likely be used as a third down and end zone as Coach Lynn said he would be on a snap count. The Chargers need quarterback Philip Rivers to be on top of his game to have a chance.
Raiders Key #2: Throw to the Backs
The Chargers defense has had all kinds of trouble defending running backs that can catch the ball. That’s been an issue for a while now and it hasn’t gotten any better in 2017. The Raiders have a few really good pass catchers out of the backfield in Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington. Even Marshawn Lynch has done damage in the passing game. With Carr hurting the Raiders will be smart to get him plenty of check downs and let the athletic backs work in space against a terrible tackling Chargers defense.
Chargers Key #3: Don’t Give the Ball Away, Take it Away
The Raiders are one of the worst teams in the NFL when it comes to taking the ball away. They are one of three teams to not have an interception this season and they have four fumble recoveries. One of the knocks on Gordon was that he fumbled a lot and this season he has not fumbled the ball. The Chargers will need that trend to continue and not commit dumb mistakes if they hope to break their losing streak in the “Black Hole”.
Raiders Key #3: Mario Be Super
Khalil Mack needs constant attention. He is one of the most disruptive forces in the NFL, able to get after the QB and shut down the run. The Chargers offensive line is not exactly stellar so Mack will likely draw plenty of double teams. When he is occupying the line fellow defensive end Mario Edwards will have chances to get to Chargers QB Philip Rivers. Edwards is second on the Raiders with 3.0 sacks (Mack has 4.0). If Rivers has time to throw he’ll pick anyone apart. But get him off his spot and he’s nowhere near as effective.
Fernando’s Prediction: 30-24 Chargers. The Chargers will disrupt Carr and will win their second game of the season. They will break their four game losing streak vs. the Raiders.
Derek’s Prediction: 33-30 Raiders. The Oakland Raiders are 0-2 in their history against the Los Angeles Chargers. They finally get their first win.