John Woz, Jr. | November 6th, 2019
Thursday Night Football features two teams from the AFC West, as the 4-4 Oakland Raiders host the 4-5 Los Angeles Chargers. The long-time rivals will face off at the Black Hole for the final time. There’s not a lot of love lost between the Chargers and the Raiders, and both teams are desperate to keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders are 3-1 at home while the Charges are 2-3 on the road. Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn is looking for his third straight win to take his team back to .500 football.
Chargers Improved Running Game
The Bolts struggled with their running game in recent weeks, but they made improvements in Sundays win against the Green Bay Packers. It’s no coincidence that a change of offensive coordinator resulted in productive games for Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. The running back duo combined for 150 yards while Gordon scored two rushing touchdowns. The Raiders rank seventh against the rush, so Thursdays’ matchup will be an interesting battle. Philip Rivers is the NFL is passing leader with 2,609 yards, and he is up against the league 31st ranked team against the pass.
I’ll single out offensive tackle, Trent Brown for the Raiders. Brown handled Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram beautifully when the Bolts faced the Patriots in last season’s playoffs. Brown’s performance was a contributing factor to a New England win. The pass rush duo of Bosa and Ingram will have to be smart against Brown, who if healthy, will start at right tackle.
There are three quality tight ends in the AFC West, and the Raiders have one in Darren Waller. The former Raven has found his football mojo in 2019. Waller has 48 receptions for 548 yards and three touchdowns so far this season. Expect to see Waller lining up alongside three wide receivers, including former Charger Tyrell Williams. The wide receiver signed a four-year $44 million dollar contract with the Raiders in the offseason. Williams isn’t the only former Charger who will wear the black and silver on Thursday night. Veteran Corey Liuget played for the Charges for eight seasons.
Rookie, Josh Jacobs is having a great inaugural season in the NFL, he has 152 carries for 740 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Pro Football Focus grades Jacobs at 90.1, he’s the future franchise running back for the Raiders. Jacobs is also the front runner for Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Chargers Keys to Victory
Russell Okung‘s contributions at left tackle will be vital to protecting Rivers. Oakland has not been good in the trenches, they rank 25th in the league in sacks given up. One key for a Chargers victory is to play with vigour on offence, giving Ekeler and Gordon plenty of opportunities to run the football. Shane Steichen’s introduction as the offensive coordinator was effective. The Packers faced 38 rushing attempts, a Chargers high since moving to Los Angeles. Steichen’s offense converted 24 first downs on Sunday. There were also improvements with the time of position, the Chargers had the football for just under 36 minutes.
One reason for the charges improved time of possession was their defense, they didn’t give Aaron Rodgers time to make plays, forcing three-and-outs. Derek Carr should expect the same treatment on Thursday night. Carr will be vulnerable to sack without the protection offered by Brown. Center, Rodney Hudson is also unlikely for the game. Ingram passed Shawne Merriman on Sunday, to move to sixth on the Chargers’ all-time sacks list (44.5). Desmond King and Jaylen Watkins had fine games against Green Bay, and both players need to maintain that level of performance against the Raiders.
Chargers Injury Update
Cortez Broughton (illness), Justin Jones (calf) and Denzel Perryman (knee) did not practice on Monday. Brandon Mebane practiced limitedly.
Raiders Injury Update
Brown (knee), and Hudson (ankle) did not practice on Monday. Jacobs (shoulder) practiced limitedly.
A win for a Chargers sets up another divisional game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City on Monday Night Football next week. Both teams are improving on slow starts to the season, and neither side will want to give up ground to the Chiefs, but something has to give.
Expect a heated game on prime time. Bosa and Ingram will take care of business on one side of the football, and if the Chargers running game shows up, they’ll walk off the field with the win.
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