Defensive End Khalil Mack
Raider Nation travels south this weekend as the Silver and Black take on the San Diego Chargers Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium.
Both the Bolts and the Raiders are coming off losses last weekend, so emotions will be high, particularly considering that the Silver and Black can secure a berth in the postseason with a Week 15 win over their division rival.
Kickoff is at 1:25 p.m. PT, but before the Raiders hop on a flight to Southern California, let's take a look at five questions we have heading into the game.
1. Can Derek Carr bounce back?
Look, for a vast of majority of 2016, the Raiders signal-caller has been masterful, and there's a reason he's an MVP candidate as the Silver and Black head down the final leg of the regular season.
That being said, last Thursday's game at Arrowhead Stadium was not his best, but to his credit, No. 4 took ownership of his performance, and knows that if the Raiders want to make a postseason run, his 17 completions for 117 yards and no touchdowns won't cut it.
To be fair, one game won't define Carr's season, and he'll have a chance to right the ship and return to his dominant ways Sunday afternoon against the Chargers.
If the statistics holds true, 'DC' will certainly have his chances against the San Diego secondary, as the group currently ranks No. 25 in the NFL, allowing 261.4 passing yards per game.
At this point in the season, 10 days in between games was probably exactly what Carr and the Raiders offense needed, and I have no doubt they'll be chomping at the bit come Sunday afternoon.
2. Will Nate Allen continue to step up?
After spending much of the regular season playing primarily on special teams, the veteran safety was thrust into action Week 13 against the Buffalo Bills, and then played every defensive snap last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Rookie safety Karl Joseph – who Allen has been replacing as of late – hasn't yet practiced this week, casting his availability for Sunday's game against the Chargers in serious doubt.
In his brief sample size playing safety this season, Allen has performed well, save one play where he admittedly got turned around, which resulted in a big play by Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
That play aside, Allen was solid against the Chiefs, leading the Raiders with eight tackles, and getting involved in stopping the run, something Joseph excelled at during his time on the gridiron.
If Joseph isn't ready to return to the field, expect once again to get a heavy dose of Nate Allen when the Raiders take the field in San Diego.
3. Will Mario Edwards Jr. make his 2016 debut?
After going through his second full week of practice, I'll be interested to see if defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. finally makes his 2016 regular season debut Sunday afternoon.
You've heard the story a thousand times by now, but I'll give you the quick refresher just in case you've somehow missed it; Edwards was injured in the team's preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals back in August and finally returned to practice early last week, but is still technically on the Reserve/Injured Designated for Return list.
The Raiders have until Dec. 26 to promote Edwards to the active roster, or they'll be forced to place No. 97 on season-ending Injured Reserve.
The talented defensive end has seemed to respond well to his time on the field since returning to practice, but we won't know for certain if he's game ready until Sunday.
4. Who will make more of an impact, Khalil Mack or Joey Bosa?
While there might not be a ton of similarities between the Raiders and Chargers this season – one team is on the cusp of a playoff berth, the other is in line to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season – both teams do have a dominant defensive end on their roster.
There certainly aren't a lack of quality edge rushers in the NFL, and Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa have been two of the best so far this season.
With 11 sacks and an interception return for touchdown to his name, Mack has inserted himself squarely into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, but don't forget about Bosa; the rookie from Ohio State has been impressive as well, tallying 6.5 sacks in the nine games he's played thus far.
Both Mack and Bosa excel at getting after the quarterback, so I'll be keeping a close eye on which defensive end can impose their will more effectively come Sunday afternoon.
5. Will the Raiders punch their ticket to the postseason?
This weekend it's quite simple for the Head Coach Jack Del Rio's squad - win and you're in.
With a 10-3 record, and three games left in the regular season, if the Raiders are able to take care of business and best the Chargers, they'll earn their way into the postseason tournament for the first time since 2002.
"I think as an organization, we have a chance to do something special," said cornerback David Amerson. "If we go out here, and get this game, we're going to the playoffs, something that [hasn't] happened in a long time here, so I think it means a lot for not only us as a team, but us as an organization, to go ahead and put our stamp, and get to that next level, and finish the season off right."
Head Coach Del Rio likes to say that the anything can happen once the postseason tournament starts, and he's absolutely right, and I'm sure that the Silver and Black would like to punch their ticket to that tournament in the house of the division rival Chargers.