Neither of these teams are a screaming success this season. The Raiders haven’t been competitive in a month and though the Chargers have been competitive in most of their games, they didn’t win their first game until last week when they faced the still winless New York Giants.
Both teams have had struggles running the football on offense and with the inside linebacker position on defense.
Derek Carr’s back from his back injury but had back-to-back bad games going back to week 3 in Washington. The man who got a lot of greenbacks this offseason to be an elite quarterback will be looking to bounce back hopefully with the help of backfield mate Marshawn Lynch.
Here are the top match-ups as the Raider are back in black this week.
Donald Penn/Marshall Newhouse vs Joey Bosa/Melvin Ingram
It must be an AFC West game because that means elite pass rushers. But unlike the Broncos with Von Miller and the Chiefs with Justin Houston, the Chargers have two great pass rushers. They will line up on each side of the line in various alignments and test both Penn and Newhouse on any given play.
Bosa led the team in sacks last season and won AFC Rookie of the Year. This season, he has already put up 4.5 sacks, but it’s Ingram who is setting the league on fire with 7.5 sacks — second most in the NFL. He is also tied for second in the league with 12 QB hits. Their combined 12.0 sacks leads the NFL. Derek Carr is coming off a back injury and was nearly the worst in the league in passer rating under pressure even before that. Penn and Marshall’s work is crucial.
Sean Smith vs Keenan Allen
Allen is lighting it up this season, already with 401 yards receiving, putting him on pace for 1283 yards this season. Last week the Ravens didn’t have a single wide receiver on pace for even 500 yards. That changed last week when Sean Smith was torched by Mike Wallace, who caught 3 passes for 133 yards.
Joe Flacco was having a difficult season coming into the game and on the very first play of the game, Wallace streaked past Smith and Flacco found him for a 51-yard bomb that led to a game opening touchdown. Later in the game, Smith was again burnt for a 54-yard bomb.
Even with Allen putting up good numbers, Philip Rivers is having a rough season. But you can bet he’ll be looking at this match-up a lot to try and get his season going.
Khalil Mack vs Joe Barksdale
For the third week in a row, Khalil Mack will line up across a former Raiders right tackle. This time they were never teammates as Barksdale’s time with the Raiders predates Mack. Barksdale was a third round pick by the Raiders in the 2011 draft. He spent just one season with the Raiders before they dropped him. He spent three seasons in St Louis with the Rams, working his way up to a starting job before signing on with the Chargers in 2015.
Even though they were never teammates, Mack is familiar with Barksdale as this will be the fifth time the two have faced off against each other. And, believe it or not, Mack has never posted a sack against him. Mack has 4.0 sacks already, the most he’s ever had at this point of a season. And Barksdale has been limited with a foot injury. Time to break through.
John Pagano vs Philip Rivers
The Raiders have an ace in the hole with Pagano on staff. Pagano spent the past 15 years with the San Diego Chargers, the last five of which as their Defensive Coordinator. This week his task is to stop the quarterback he had schemed against in practice the past 13 years.
Rivers had 21 interceptions last season and has 5 already this season. This season with Pagano working with the secondary, the Raiders have no interceptions. That has to change at some point. There shouldn’t be a more opportune time than this week against a QB in the twilight of his career with Pagano in Oakland with the book on him.
Michael Crabtree vs Casey Hayward
With Amari Cooper on the other side battling his own demons, Crabtree has been carrying this team on the other side. Heyward led the league with 7 interceptions last season and was named to the Pro Bowl. He doesn’t have an interception yet this season, which if the past three weeks are any indication, it could just mean he’s due.
Crabtree currently has 19 catches for 252 yards and 4 touchdowns in 4 games, putting him on pace for 945 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. He has yet to have a 100-yard receiving game this season — no Raiders player has. For a second straight season, the Chargers are without their top cornerback, Jason Verrett, but Heyward is no slouch either.