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Raiders-Chargers Week 4: 5 things to watch in crucial matchup

Keys to an upset win AFC West battle

Los Angeles Chargers v Minnesota Vikings
Justin Herbert
Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers are both 1-2 and are in danger of digging a big early-season hole as they prepare for Sunday’s game at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. PT.

Here are five keys to a Raiders’ upset victory:

Contain Justin Herbert:

The Raiders have faced Russell Wilson, Josh Allen and Kenny Pickett so far. All three had relative success against Patrick Graham’s underwhelming defense. Wilson and Pickett haven’t been great otherwise this season.

Allen, of course is a star. Well, so is Justin Herbert and he is playing out of his mind. Herbert, who has had a lot of success against the Raiders in his first three seasons, is averaging 313 passing yards a game, has completed 74.4 percent of his passes, has thrown six touchdown passes with no interceptions. Yes, Mike Williams is out, but Keenan Allen is having a monster season with 32 catches. The Raiders can’t let Herbert go nuts or they won’t be able to keep up.

Protect quarterback:

The Raiders’ offensive line did an outstanding job protecting their quarterback in the first two games and were the only team not to allow a sack through two weeks. Yet, the Steelers teed off against Jimmy Garoppolo, sacking him four times and creating a lot of pressure all game. The Chargers, who feature former Raiders’ pass-rusher Khalil Mack and bookend Joey Bosa, had four sacks in Week 3 in a win at Minnesota and has nine sacks in their past two games. The Las Vegas offensive line needs a bounce-back game with Garoppolo expected back from the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Continue to try to establish the ground game:

Yes, we’re talking about a recurring need, but it’s the reality especially with the quarterback situation in question. This offense needs more balance. The Raiders had better success on the ground against the Steelers (who entered the game with the worst run defense in the league) as Jacobs had 62 yards on 17 carries. It was still not good enough.

Jacobs is still not his old self. The Raiders have to keep trying until they get it right or this offense be as unbalanced and ineffective as it has been during the first three weeks of the season.

Win turnover battle:

Again, we’re repeating another need here. The Raiders were picking balls off left and right in training cam. The narrative was this defense was finally ready to get takeaways consistently. Maybe it was just that they were facing Garoppolo. Through three games, the Raiders have coughed up seven turnovers and have no takeaways. That is no way of going through a football season.

Take advantage of Chargers’ defensive issues:

The Chargers, who may be without stars safety Derwin James and Bosa on Sunday because of injuries, have allowed 87 points in three games, giving up, at least, 24 points every game. The Raiders have scored just 45 points with 18 points being their highest output so far. Something has to give. It is up to Josh McDaniels to figure out a way to take advantage of the Chargers’ issues on defense and score, at least, 24 points in this game. Every game the Chargers play is close, but if the Raiders offense isn’t up to the task, that may change.