Few things are better than a matchup between division rivals and this Sunday we'll get one between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Los Angeles Chargers.
These aren't your dad's Chargers, this is a young and electric squad budding with talent on both sides of the ball. Led by former University of Oregon Duck Justin Herbert, the Bolts' offense has become dynamic compared to the team's Week 1 performance with Tyrod Taylor under center. Stopping the rookie phenom is going to be a key for Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther and his unit in Week 9, among other things.
Let's break down the three Key Matchups you should keep an eye on between the Raiders and Chargers.
Trayvon Mullen vs. Keenan Allen
Keenan Allen is often left out of the discussion of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but I'll be the first to say he belongs in that conversation. The former University of California Golden Bear is an elite route runner, has exceptional hands, and for those reasons he's going to be a tough assignment for second-year cornerback Trayvon Mullen.
In both games last year, Mullen and the Raiders' secondary were able to hold Allen to under 72 yards and no more than eight receptions, but that was in an offense with Austin Ekeler as the focal point. With the revamped Chargers, Herbert is looking to Allen early and often, with an absurd 74 targets through six games together. Mullen has played well this season, but he's still searching for his first interception of the year; however, he does have seven passes defensed already, which is just three shy of his total from 16 games last year.
The battle between the tactical wide receiver and the rangy cornerback is going to play a key role in the first matchup of the season between the Raiders and the Chargers.
Johnathan Abram vs. Justin Herbert
Raiders safety Johnathan Abram isn't technically a rookie, but because he missed nearly all of last season (except for two quarters of action), he's still experiencing a rookie learning curve. So, for the sake of this edition of Key Matchups, I'm going to feature two "rookies" in Abram and Justin Herbert.
When Abram is roaming the secondary for Guenther and the Raiders the group looks vastly improved compared to when he's on the sideline. His ability to eliminate deep passes and strike fear with his booming-hits is going to be crucial against Herbert. The Oregon native is tied for third in most 40-yard completions this season and isn't afraid to air it out. Allen and Mike Williams are able to stretch the field for the Chargers and stretch passes over the middle for big gains after the catch. Abram is going to be needed to eliminate those big pass plays and keep Herbert honest in the pocket.
Raiders Offensive Line vs. Chargers Defensive Line
The Raiders' offensive line has been banged up for a majority of the 2020 season, but players like Denzelle Good and Brandon Parker have been able to step up and fill the void. With Richie Incognito still sidelined and Trent Brown's status up in the air, it's possible that Good and Parker both have their numbers called again this Sunday. While Melvin Ingram doesn't have any sacks this season, he and Joey Bosa are a problem and demand respect. In order for the Raiders to be successful on offense, the frontline will need to hold strong against this pair of pass rushers, as the case has been in years past. The Chargers have 15 sacks on the season and will bring the heat against Derek Carr in Week 9.