Somehow, someway, the Oakland Raiders' postseason hopes are still alive.
They might be hanging on for dear life, but as of now, the Silver and Black are technically still alive for the postseason tournament. That said, to keep those hopes alive, the Raiders need to handle business and beat the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday afternoon at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Things are always spirited when those two AFC West foes get together, so I anticipate Week 16 will be a fun one. Here are six storylines to watch once the game gets underway at 1:05 pm PT.
1. How does the run game fare without Josh Jacobs?
For the second time this season, the Raiders' offense will be without the services of Josh Jacobs as he deals with a nagging shoulder injury that forced him to miss Week 14's action against the Tennessee Titans.
Now, are the Silver and Black a more potent, dynamic attack when No. 28 is lined up in the backfield? Absolutely, but let's not forget that with Jalen Richard and DeAndré Washington handling the bulk of the ground work against the Titans, the Raiders still nearly hit the century mark in terms of rushing yards.
Once again, I would assume that Jalen and D. Wash will be asked to pick up the slack in Jacobs' absence, but I wonder if we might get our first look at Rod Smith as well, who the team signed December 10.
The Chargers boast a Top 5 defense, so nothing will come easy for the Raiders' running backs, but all the same, I'm excited to see what the guys in Kirby Wilson's room do with their opportunity.
2. The return of Hunter Renfrow
After missing three games dealing with a rib injury, Hunter Renfrow will – barring any type of unforeseen setback – make his return to game action Sunday afternoon against the Bolts.
While Renfrow's return to the field is great news for a wide receiving corps that has had no shortage of moving parts in '19, the dynamic rookie will also provide a boost to the special teams unit, as No. 13 will likely get a chance to return punts as well.
Even though the former Clemson Tiger hasn't suited up since Week 12, Renfrow still ranks third on the team in both receptions (36) and receiving yards (396), so his return to work will be a welcome addition for Derek Carr and Co.
The Bolts' pass defense is no joke, so Renfrow and his pals will have their collective work cut out for them Sunday afternoon.
3. Keep Austin Ekeler out of the end zone
The shifty wide receiver has been an absolute beast for the Chargers this season.
Not only will Ekeler likely set a career high in rushing yards at some point before the end of the regular season, he'll also likely hit the 1,000-yark mark in receiving yards.
Yes, you read that correctly, running back Austin Ekeler is on pace to be a 1,000-yard receiver this season for the Chargers.
And it's not just the total yardage that's impressive for Ekeler, it's the frequency that he's scoring touchdowns for Los Angeles.
The dynamic running back has an absurd eight receiving touchdowns in '19, and throw in the fact that he also has three rushing touchdowns, and Ekeler is practically paying rent in the end zone.
The Raiders' defensive backs will have their hands full with Keenan Allen and Co., but it'll be just as important to keep Ekeler from feasting as well.
4. Feed Darren Waller
2019 was undoubtedly the year of Darren Waller.
Now one of the premier tight ends in the NFL, Waller already has north of 1,000 reviving yards, and has shown week in and week out that he's one of the hardest guys to cover in the league.
Last week, No. 83 put together a signature performance, hauling in eight catches for 122 yards, so I'm looking forward to seeing if he keeps the good times rolling in Southern California this weekend.
As it stands now, Waller is currently 246 yards from tying Todd Christensen for the most receiving yards by a tight end in franchise history, but a big day against the Chargers could put him within shouting distance for the regular season finale against the Denver Broncos.
Let's see how close he can get.
As the Raiders prepare for their Week 16 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers, take a look back at their past matchups through the years.
5. The state of the offensive line
Here's what we do know – Trent Brown's season is over, and Brandon Parker will remain at right tackle for Week 16.
Oh, and Richie Incognito will also be unavailable for Week 16 as he battles an ankle injury.
Throughout the year, the offensive line – regardless of personnel – has been the heartbeat of the Raiders, so keep a close eye on Tom Cable's group as they get to work against the Chargers' defensive line.
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram are one of the best pass rushing duos in the game, so keeping them away from DC will be paramount if the Silver and Black want to fly home with a W.
This battle is going to be a ton of fun to watch, and I can't wait to see how it all unfolds.
6. That "home" field advantage
The Silver and Black aren't playing in Oakland this weekend, but make no mistake about it – Sunday's game is going to be dominated by members of Raider Nation.
Anytime the team goes to Southern California, wherever the Raiders play, the stadium is dominated by fans of the Silver and Black – like, literally dominated.
When the Raiders played the Bolts last year, it felt like a legitimate home game, and I fully anticipate that will be the case once again this Sunday at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Can Jon Gruden's team feed off that energy and tally its seventh win of the campaign? I sure hope so.