Man, it feels like Sunday’s win over the Detroit Lions happened just the other day, but with a Thursday Night Football tilt against the Los Angeles Chargers coming down the pipeline, the time for celebrating Week 9 has come and gone.
Both the Raiders and Chargers are coming off big wins over the weekend, and while the Bolts still own a record under .500, with Philip Rivers at the helm, the group is always a tough out.
The Silver and Black went 0-2 against the Chargers in 2018, so getting a win on Thursday night is crucial for myriad reasons – especially in a still wide open AFC West.
Kickoff is scheduled for 5:20 PM; here are six things to watch for once the lights go on.
1. Once again, all eyes on the o-line
First things first – let’s give Tom Cable a quick round of applause.
Regardless of what combination of offensive linemen he’s been forced to trot out each week – and there have been plenty – the Silver and Black’s offensive line coach has had his group ready to go, and week in, and week out, they’ve shown they’re the strength of the 2019 Oakland Raiders.
With the statuses of both Rodney Hudson and Trent Brown once again up in the air, Cable will have his hands full in preparing his guys for a big test – on a short week, no less.
The Chargers’ defensive line is a beast, but it still all starts with Joey Bosa.
Bosa, who has five-and-a-half sacks over the past three weeks, is a game wrecker type of dude, and regardless of who mans the offensive line, the Raiders will need to find a way to keep him away from Derek Carr.
The big fellas up front have been stellar so far in 2019, let’s see if that trend continues Thursday.
2. Speaking of Derek Carr…
Don’t look now, but DC is in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career.
With nine touchdowns and just a single interception over his past five games, Carr has been masterful in leading the Raiders’ offense up and down the field.
Rookie stud Josh Jacobs has understandably garnered a ton of credit for the success of things on the offensive side of the ball – and for good reason – but make no mistake about it, No. 4 has played an integral role in putting points on the board.
Phil Rivers is a gunslinger, and while DC can make any throw on the football field, his asks come game day are likely different than those of the Bolts starting quarterback.
Carr has been ultra-efficient in ’19 – his current 71.2 percent completion percentage is a career high – and if he can keep that trend up, and take advantage of the chances the Los Angeles defense gives him, I like the Raiders’ opportunities for success.
3. Take advantage of those turnovers
Headed into Thursday’s game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Chargers rank No. 23 in the league with a minus-three turnover differential.
Now, for some context, the Silver and Black rank 18th in that same metric with a turnover differential of minus-one, but what that stat tells us is that the Bolts can be susceptible to turning the ball over.
Rivers likes to get out and stretch the field, and while he’s always going to give his guys a chance to make a play, that type of mentality naturally results in some interceptions as well.
Paul Guenther’s defense has had a knack as of late for forcing turnovers in crucial moments, so I’m excited to see if they can do that once again Thursday night.
4. Stop Melvin Gordon
The Raiders’ defense ranks No. 28 overall in the NFL, but one thing that the group has done really well so far in 2019 is stop the run, and if they want to find any type of sustained success against the Bolts, they’ll have to do just that.
After missing the first four games of the regular season, then taking a few weeks to get his legs back under him, Melvin Gordon has returned to form as of late, and has very much looked like the Pro Bowl running back he has been during his tenure in Southern California.
Gordon has found paydirt three times in the past two weeks, and while his overall stats might not blow you away just yet, his addition has given the Los Angeles offense another quality element.
Making the opposing offense one dimensional is key every week, but particularly so when you’re going up against an offense as explosive as the Chargers can be.
As the Raiders head into a primetime matchup against the divisional-rival Los Angeles Chargers, take a look back at their past matchups through the years.
5. The youth movement
Last week, all four Raiders’ touchdowns came courtesy of rookies on the team’s roster, meaning that through eight games, the Silver and Black’s first-year players have accounted for 11 total touchdowns.
To give that number a little bit of supporting context, that number ranks top in the NFL, and the team that’s No. 2 on the list – the Washington Redskins – have had just six touchdowns from their collective rookie class.
However you shake out the numbers, the fact is this – the Raiders’ rookie class has been a revelation this year, and on the offensive side of the football in particular, they’ve contributed at a staggering rate.
And as productive as Josh Jacobs has been, he hasn’t been the only rookie finding the end zone as both Hunter Renfrow and Foster Moreau have really come on as of late.
We knew that in order for the Silver and Black to take a step forward this year, the young guys would have to rise up, and I’m excited to see if they’ll keep that trend going in primetime.
6. Who handles the short week better?
Love it or hate it – and everyone seems to have a take on football being played on Thursday – Thursday Night Football is here for the time being.
And while there’s nobody out there who would argue the product you get on Thursday is akin to what you would get on a Sunday, the fact remains, every team in the NFL has to play a Thursday night game, and this week it’s the Raiders and Chargers’ turn.
Playing on a short week presents no shortage of challenges, but keep an eye on which team handles all those hurdles the best, and puts their best foot forward at the OACC.