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5 potential X-factors against Chargers

A resurgence happening in Las Vegas?

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers
Jermaine Eluemunor
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

After back-to-back overtime victories as road underdogs, the Las Vegas Raiders are rolling and have injected some life back into their season over the last couple of games. But Week 13 brings a bigger test for the Raiders as they are once again underdogs, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, against the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chargers are also coming off of a thrilling victory from last week and come into Sunday with a 6-5 record and a game behind the Jets for the AFC’s third Wild Card spot. Meanwhile, the Raiders sit at 4-7 and likely need to run the table to even get in the postseason picture, but the team has shown a lot of fight lately and they’d love nothing more than to help ruin a division rival’s playoff hopes for the second year in a row.

This week’s X-factors will still focus on the younger players on the roster, however, a lot of the younger guys have been standing out during Las Vegas’ recent run.

Tyler Hall

Las Vegas Raiders v Denver Broncos
Tyler Hall
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Hall was sent back to the practice squad after Sunday’s game, but quickly got his third and final call-up of the season after Anthony Averett went on IR, and Hall has been playing really well lately.

While he’s only participated in 50 snaps over the last two games, Hall has posted an impressive 75.4 grade from Pro Football Focus. He’s been targeted three times and allowed two receptions for just six yards while accumulating three defensive stops to earn some extra grade points. Mixing in a sack against the Broncos also gave his grade a little boost.

The 2020 undrafted free agent got the start in Seattle and logged 32 defensive snaps while Amik Roberston only participated in four plays and Sidney Jones was inactive. Neither Robertson nor Jones were listed on the injury report last week, suggesting the coaching staff believes in Hall and he’s surpassed those two on the depth chart.

So far, the Wyoming product’s primary role has been as a slot corner which could make for a difficult matchup against the Chargers. Keenan Allen is obviously a big threat that the Raiders know well, but Allen has been banged up for the majority of the season and that’s paved the way for DeAndre Carter’s breakout campaign.

Of Carter’s 38 catches, 452 yards and three touchdowns this year, 23, 332 and all three scores have come on the inside. Those figures rank tied for 18th, 13th and tied for fourth, respectively, among slot receivers. So, whether he’s lining up across from Allen or Carter, Hall is going to be facing a big test and passing could keep him on the active roster for good and/or earn him a contract in the offseason.

Monitoring Nate Hobbs’ status over the week will give us a good idea of how much Hall might play on Sunday, too.

Jerry Tillery

Los Angeles Chargers v Las Vegas Raiders
Jerry Tillery
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Sometimes in the NFL, and football as a whole, revenge is the best motivator a player can have. Getting waived midseason before even finishing a rookie contract means that team really didn’t want that guy around anymore, and that’s the exact situation Tillery was in just a few weeks ago.

It didn’t end well for him in Los Angeles as his playing time was cut and reports surfaced about him having friction with teammates before being let go, so Sunday is the former first-round pick’s opportunity to get some payback.

Tillery has received a solid amount of playing time since moving to Las Vegas. He’s logged 53 total snaps and carved out a role as an interior pass rusher with 40 of those snaps coming on passing plays. While he’s yet to record a pressure or sack of his own, his presence has helped free up some of the defense’s other rushers, most notably Bilal Nichols who has had six pressures in the last two games compared to 13 in the previous nine.

That being said, the former Charger does need to put up some production of his own to make a stronger case to stick around for next season. The good news is that could easily happen against a couple of his old teammates.

The Bolts’ guards, Matt Feiler and rookie Zion Johnson, have struggled in pass protection this season. They’re right next to each other for pressures allowed among guards as Johnson has yielded 29 — fifth-most at the position — and Feiler has given up 27 — tied for the sixth-most.

So, the opportunities should be there for Tillery to let his former team know what they’re missing, it’s just a matter of capitalizing.

Zamir White

Las Vegas Raiders v Seattle Seahawks
Zamir White
Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

With Josh Jacobs playing like the best running in the NFL this season, it’s been a pretty quiet rookie season for Zamir White. White hasn’t had more than two carries in a game and there have been a handful of weeks where he didn’t even see the field on offense. However, that could change dramatically this weekend.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Josh Jacobs is nursing a calf strain and isn’t expected to practice, or at least be a full participant, all week in hopes that he’ll be ready to go on Sunday. That should pave the way for White to get more touches even if Jacobs does suit up as Jacobs won’t be 100 percent and will barely practice this week.

The rookie showed some promise during his two touches in Seattle, running for 17 yards on one carry and 11 on the other for a total of 28 yards and two first downs. That’s a small sample size but a larger role this weekend could be the perfect opportunity for him to build on that momentum.

The Chargers have a historically bad run defense this season, allowing 5.53 yards per carry which is the worst average for any defense since 2000, per Daniel Popper of The Athletic. So, whoever is in the backfield for the Raiders is in line for a big day, and that could mean a breakout performance for White.

Jermaine Eluemunor

Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders
Jermaine Eluemunor
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Head coach Josh McDaniels and Las Vegas’ offensive line were under some scrutiny at the beginning of the season as the team was shuffling its linemen, primarily because no one was taking command of the team’s right tackle spot. However, the rotation has ended in recent weeks and that’s largely due to Eluemunor’s play.

He hasn’t allowed a sack nor a QB hit since Week 3, and he’s earned PFF overall grades of at least 70 in four out of the last five games. The only time he was below that mark during the stretch was in Denver, when filled in for an injured Kolton Miller and played left tackle. In the same timeframe, Eluemunor is also tied for the 10th-highest graded offensive tackle (77.6).

The veteran lineman has done enough to warrant sticking around for next season, however, the Chargers pose a significant threat this Sunday.

Age is certainly starting to catch up with Khalil Mack as he’s not the monster he used to be. But, Mack still ranks just outside the top 25 among edge rushers with 33 pressures and is tied for 17th across the entire league with seven sacks, so he can still get after the quarterback.

So, Eluemunor has a big outing ahead of him and one that could turn some heads in either direction.

DJ Turner

Indianapolis Colts v Las Vegas Raiders
DJ Turner
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Maybe it’s my stubbornness more than anything else, but I’m going to continue to plant my flag in the “DJ Turner should be playing more” hill until he proves me wrong!

He got a couple of opportunities offensively in last week’s contest, and McDaniels even called Turner’s number on an end-around that might have been a touchdown had Foster Moreau not been called for a questionable false start penalty.

Beyond any sort of matchup or statistics, these are the types of opportunities the coaching staff needs to give the second-year pro. He can be a dynamic player in the offense who only needs a few touches to make an impact, but he needs to be given a chance to prove himself.

With Hunter Renfrow out and the playoffs looking like an afterthought, now is the time to see what they have in Turner.