It’s milestone week for the Raiders. A win in San Diego and they clinch their first playoff berth in 14 years. Last week a win plus some help would have gotten them in. They got the help. But didn’t get the win. This week, they just need to win.
Standing in their way is a struggling, but still dangerous 5-8 Chargers team.
There are some similarities between these two squads. Both teams have a pair of fine pass rushers, but haven’t been able to consistently generate sacks as a defense.
For the Chargers it’s Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the edges. Together they share almost evenly 12.5 sacks on the season. But their overall defense has just 23.0 sacks which is 27th in the league.
For the Raiders it’s Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. Together they have 16.0 sacks, with Mack taking the lion’s share with 11.0 sacks. Again, however, the overall defense has generated just 22.0 sacks.
Where they separate is their ability to force turnovers. Mack leads the league with 7 takeaways (6 forced fumbles, 1 interception). Bruce Irvin has 4 forced fumbles of his own. While Ingram has 3 forced fumbles and Bosa hasn’t forced a turnover this season.
Those takeaways by the Raiders are a major reason they are 10-3 on the season. The offense also takes care of the ball, giving them a league-best +15 turnover differential (24 takeaways, 9 giveaways). The Chargers are 23rd with a -5 turnover differential.
Speaking of turning over the ball; Philip Rivers has thrown the most interceptions in the league this season (17). Though he is still among the league’s best in passing yards (5th) and touchdowns (4th).
The man taking the ball away in San Diego these days is Casey Hayward. In his first season with the Chargers since coming over as a free agent from Green Bay, Hayward leads the NFL with 7 interceptions. He will most likely match-up with Amari Cooper much of the time, pitting each team’s strength against each other.
Derek Carr is known for throwing at opposing team’s best corner with near complete disregard. But he may consider throwing to the other side a bit more where the Chargers are digging deep in their depth chart. They lost Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett to a torn ACL early in the season, will most likely be without his replacement Craig Mager, and having to start undrafted rookie Trovon Reed. That’s a match-up that should be exploited every chance Carr gets.
Another key injury for the Chargers is running back Melvin Gordon. He won’t play in this game. He will be replaced undrafted rookie Kenneth Farrow who entered the game for Gordon last week, running for 55 yards on 16 carries (3.4 yards per carry). Gordon is a big loss for the Chargers. He was having a resurgent season, just three yards away from 1000 yards rushing.
Last time these two teams met, both Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams burnt the Raiders for 117 yards each. Since then, Williams has continued to play well, while Benjamin has fallen off.
Antonio Gates has long been the Chargers biggest receiving threat, but at the age of 36, he appears to finally have slowed down. He’s having his worst season since his rookie year, with just 388 yards and averaging under 10 yards per catch. Though with the Raiders issues covering the tight end, he should find a fountain of youth.
Other story lines:
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego CA
Game time: Sunday, December 18, 1:25 pm Pacific (4:25 pm ET)
TV channel: CBS (Do I get the game?)
Online streaming: NFL Game Pass (Live audio, replay after it's over)
Radio: 98.5 KFOX (Greg Papa, Tom Flores) | Full listings
Match-up history: Raiders lead series 61-50-2, 31-24 in San Diego, Won 3-straight
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots
Enemy blog: Bolts From The Blue
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