Just when you thought the San Diego Chargers season had hit rock bottom, they outdid themselves last week.
They did the unthinkable on Sunday, as the Bolts were up 13 with just a bit under six minutes left in the game. Instead of putting the game away, the team fumbled twice to fall to 1-3 on the season. The schedule doesn’t get any easier, as this week the Chargers travel to Northern California to face their rival Oakland Raiders.
This game is going to be tough because Oakland has a very potent offense. The Chargers defense will be without pro bowl CB Jason Verrett, after it was announced Tuesday that he will miss the rest of 2016 with an ACL injury. It’s a tough blow for this team that has been crippled by injuries through the first four weeks of the 2016 season.
As we do every week here at EVT, we will take a look at the Raiders strengths and weaknesses in anticipation of this weeks’ game.
1. Derek Carr
After almost a decade of being the laughing stock of the NFL, the Raiders have found a true franchise QB to be the face of the team. I won’t lie, back in April I wrote about how I wasn’t sold on him, but he’s proved me wrong so far. He’s been a true field general and has displayed tremendous leadership abilities. He has two game winning drives on the road, which is impressive for being such a young QB. The Chargers will need to disrupt his timing, but that is a tough task, as the Raiders have a massive offensive line protecting Carr. Jeremiah Attaochu and Melvin Gordon will need to provide pressure if the Chargers have any chance at a road victory.
2. Outside Receivers
When Oakland drafted Amari Cooper early in the 2015 draft, we all knew he was a star in the making. He’s been everything Oakland was hoping for, although he hasn’t found the endzone so far this season. He has still been instrumental in the improvement of Michael Crabtree for the Raiders this year. Teams are neglecting Crabtree and he is producing. We all remember Crabtree because of Richard Sherman‘s bizarre interview in the NFC Championship Game. He fits the Raiders profile as a talented but troubled player. There is no denying that the former Texas Tech standout has become a reliable receiver, specially in the redzone, so the Chargers will need to shadow him. With Verrett’s injury, Craig Mager and Casey Hayward are going to be working overtime for the Bolts to cover this duo.
Whenever the Raiders potent offense stalls, the team knows they have the NFL’s best punter on the sideline. He can flip field position like no other punter can, which forces the opposition to drive the length of the field in order to score. Look for him to be a factor as the Chargers have struggled with their special teams play. Dexter McCluster looks to be more involved this week. King will likely try to stay away from him and pin the Chargers deep in their territory.
1. Pass Rush
I know they have Khalil Mack, and that many believe he’s the second coming of Lawrence Taylor, but so far this season, the Raiders only have five sacks. If the Chargers can give Philip Rivers time, I think SD can score points against Oakland, because their secondary is struggling just as much. Rivers should be able to locate the open receiver downfield, and if he can do that consistently, the Chargers have a decent shot at a victory. A banged up offensive line must continue to keep Philip upright. King Dunlap still looks to be out, so the play of Chris Hairston and company must improve.
This was somewhat predictable. After all, Charles Woodson retired after last season, and the secondary was left without a leader. This season, Oakland has struggled against veteran QB’s like Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. David Amerson has struggled when he’s covered speedy receivers, so it might be smart to line up Travis Benjamin across from Amerson. The Chargers, despite the injuries, have plenty of offensive weapons. Hunter Henry should have another great game as he works the seam against the safeties and linebackers.
Football is a game of matchups, and this unit is not good versus the pass. Malcolm Smith hasn’t been the same since he left Seattle. The Raiders unit is not as athletic as they’d like, so look for the Chargers to run a lot of crossing routes. The Falcons and Ravens had a lot of success running those routes against the team. The Chargers have the ability to cross Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams, so look for that to take place on Sunday, resulting in huge yardage.
So there you have it. So far, the Chargers have shown that they are their own worst enemy. If they can just get out of their own way, they just might leave Oakland with an upset victory. We will see.