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Key Matchups To Watch: Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers


The Oakland Raiders six-game winning streak came to an end Thursday night at Arrowhead Stadium, as the Silver and Black fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 21-13.

Following a "mini-bye" as a result of the team's Thursday night matchup, Head Coach Jack Del Rio's squad will look to get back in the win column Sunday afternoon when they square off with another division, the San Diego Chargers.

Although they're currently living in the basement of the AFC West, the Chargers are always a threat on the offensive side of the football with Phillip Rivers at the helm, and games at Qualcomm Stadium have proved to be adventurous for the Silver and Black in recent years.

With the Raiders hitting the road once again this weekend, let's take a look at three matchups that will be critical in determining the end result of the Week 15 clash.

Cornerback Sean Smith vs. Wide Receiver Tyrell Williams

Over the past several seasons – this season in particular – the Raiders have found a plethora of success from the ranks of their undrafted free agents, but the San Diego Chargers have found a free agent gem of their own with wide receiver Tyrell Williams.

The former Western Oregon Wolf wasn't selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, signing with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent, and then appearing in four games during his rookie season.

However, 2016 has brought a new role for Williams, as the second-year wideout has turned into a legitimate receiving threat for the Chargers, currently leading the Bolts in both receptions (55), receiving yards (905), and touchdowns (6).

Give credit to the Chargers, they've been absolutely eviscerated by injuries this season, but even though they've made do with a patchwork group, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has still found a way to up points at a high clip, as the Chargers 350 points ranks fourth in the NFL.

Standing at 6'4", Williams certainly boasts prototypical size for an NFL wide receiver, but the Silver and Black signed cornerback Sean Smith this offseason to lock up players just like Williams.

Rivers and the Chargers offense like to air ball out, which means that Smith will definitely get his chances to make plays Sunday afternoon, so I'll keeping a close eye on that battle out wide to see who gains the upper hand.

Running Back Latavius Murray vs. Inside Linebacker Denzel Perryman

Admittedly there weren't a lot of positives to garner from the offensive side of the football the last time the Silver and Black took the field, but if you are a glass- half -full kind of person, look no further than the output of running back Latavius Murray.

Murray finished the primetime matchup against the Chiefs with 22 carries for 103 yards, and one touchdown, and averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry throughout the Week 14 game at Arrowhead Stadium.

Murray's 12 rushing touchdowns are good for second in the NFL, ranking behind just the New England Patriot's LeGarrette Blount, and while No. 28 has no doubt enjoyed another solid year in the Raiders backfield, he'll have his work cut out for him Sunday afternoon against the Chargers defense.

Although the Bolts boast just a 5-8 record, they have shown to be tough against the run, giving up just an average of just 91.9 rushing yards per game.

The big guys in the trenches will understandably get a lot of credit for spearheading the Chargers defensive assault, but don't forget about inside linebacker Denzel Perryman.

The second-year standout from the University of Miami currently leads the Chargers with 46 tackles, and watching him and Murray go toe to toe all afternoon in Southern California will be quite the battle to watch.

Quarterback Derek Carr vs. Quarterback Philip Rivers

The story hasn't changed for either the Raiders or Chargers this season; both teams go as far each week as their respective quarterbacks take them.

Looking at that model, it's not surprising that after both Carr and Rivers delivered uncharacteristically poor performances last week, neither the Raiders nor Chargers were able to secure wins the last time they took the field.

With two high-flying passing attacks – the Raiders rank No. 5 and the Chargers rank No. 6 – both defenses figure to be put under pressure, from the defensive lines to the respective secondaries.

"I definitely think Philip is one of the better quarterbacks in the league, he has been for years," said defensive tackle Dan Williams. "And the things he's been doing, it just shows how good of a quarterback he is – a guy goes down, and he still has the numbers they've been producing. I really believe it starts with him."

Sunday's game features arguably the top two quarterbacks in the AFC West, so don't turn away from the field, points could be coming in a hurry.

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