After a week back home, the Oakland Raiders are on the road again, this time headed to Los Angeles for a divisional matchup against Philip Rivers and the Chargers.
Both the Raiders and the Bolts are coming off wins, so the rivalry game will have a little bit more juice than usual Sunday afternoon at StubHub Center.
Head Coach Jon Gruden and Co., are looking to build momentum on the heels of a thrilling win last week, but as we know, winning on the road is never easy. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.; here are six things to watch when the AFC West foes square off.
1. Welcome to the NFL, rooks
All eyes will be on the bookends of the Raiders offensive line Sunday afternoon, and for good reason too.
After the team placed Donald Penn on the reserve/injured list earlier this week, Brandon Parker will be the man at right tackle going forward, meaning that for the time being, both tackle spots for the Silver and Black will be manned by rookies.
“He [Parker] showed some things at the Senior Bowl that our scouts recognized and the coaches recognized, so we knew he had the talent level to play here at this level,” said offensive coordinator Greg Olson. “But there’s always a transition, I think, from college to the NFL. We’re happy with where he’s at right now but he still has a ways to go as well.”
Fellow rookie Kolton Miller has started each of the team’s first four games – and played pretty well too – but he and Parker will have their hands full at Stubhub Center, even without Joey Bosa in the mix.
2. Feed The Beast
Marshawn Lynch has been a man among boys through the first quarter of 2018.
With 300 rushing yards, only three players (Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Matt Breida) rank ahead of The Beast in the entire league, and truth be told, I don’t think there’s a player in the NFL currently running harder than No. 24.
The Chargers currently surrender north of 109 yards per game on the ground, so if we look at the numbers, it appears that Lynch will have a chance to feast.
Plain and simple, the 32-year-old running back has been one of the most dynamic and consistent players on Head Coach Jon Gruden’s offense; I’m excited to see what he does on Sunday.
3. Limit Philip Rivers
I don’t care if this is Year 15 for the Chargers man under center, Philip Rivers is still ballin’.
Entering Week 5, the veteran signal-caller has already tossed 11 touchdowns – compared to just two interceptions – and thrown for 1,156 yards.
In the early goings of 2018, Rivers’ favorite target has understandably been Keenan Allen, but Mike Williams has certainly gotten his too.
Look, at the end of the day, regardless of his age, Rivers is still a top-tier quarterback in the NFL, and if the Raiders want to fly back to Northern California with a win, keeping No. 17 contained will be imperative.
4. Keep Jared Cookin’
In terms of the Raiders aerial attack, Jared Cook has led the way for the Silver and Black in both receptions (26) and receiving yards (370).
The veteran tight end has been stellar over the first quarter of the season, and if Derek Carr and Co. want to keep the good times rolling against the Bolts, they’d be well served if No. 87 was fed early and often.
Just a week ago, the Los Angeles defense let San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle run wild to the tune of six catches for 125 yards and a score, so hopefully Cook and the Raiders can replicate that success.
Hit the practice field with the Raiders players and coaches as they prepare to take on the Chargers in Week 5.
5. Get pressure
It’s been one of the narratives we’ve heard all year; the Raiders need to get pressure on the quarterback.
Now, while the team currently has just five total sacks, with a pair last week against Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns, the Raiders pass rush had indeed shown flashes of improvement from Week 1 until now.
As a collective, the Chargers offensive line has surrendered just six sacks (tied for second fewest in the NFL) in 2018, so Bruce Irvin, Arden Key, and the rest of the Silver and Black’s defensive front will need to bring their “A” game Sunday afternoon.
Pressure is always the name of the game; let’s see how the Raiders do just that.
6. I’m looking at you, Raider Nation
Look, we all know that Raider Nation travels incredibly well; we see it each and every time we hit the road.
Psst, I’ll let you in on another secret too – Los Angeles is still a Raiders town, and I fully expect that to be on display Sunday afternoon at Stubhub Center.
Last year when we traveled down to take on the Chargers, the stadium was filled with fans of the Silver and Black, and coming off a big win last week, I expect history to repeat itself once again this weekend.
I’ll leave you with this, Raider Nation; the Chargers are preparing for a home game by reportedly piping in crowd noise during practice.
Prove them right come Sunday.