Unfortunately, the Oakland Raiders are just a few days away from the end of the road in 2017.
With a 6-9 record headed into Week 17, there will be no playoffs for the Silver and Black this year, but a win Sunday afternoon against the Los Angeles Chargers would not only give Head Coach Jack Del Rio’s squad its seventh win of the year, but it would also knock the Bolts out of playoff contention.
The regular season finale is set to be a good one; here are six things you should watch for when the Raiders descend upon StubHub Center.
1. Mr. 10,000?
In the history of the NFL, only 30 players have rushed for at least 10,000 yards, but with a big day Sunday afternoon, Marshawn Lynch could be No. 31 on that list.
Headed into Week 17, “Beast Mode” has 9,902 rushing yards in his illustrious career, putting him just 98 yards away from 10,000.
The veteran running back has been a force over the second half of the season, the past month in particular, so keep an eye on Lynch’s yardage Sunday afternoon to see if he can reach that impressive milestone.
As good as the Chargers have been as of late, they’ve certainly had their fair share of issues stopping the run; they rank dead last in that metric, so I’m excited to see if No. 24 can take advantage.
It’s no secret that 2017 didn’t really go as planned for the Silver and Black, and trying to preach about the positives is likely falling upon deaf ears, but I think it’s important to give credit to Assistant Head Coach – Defense John Pagano for the work he’s done with the Raiders defense.
Headed into Week 17, Pagano’s unit ranks 19th in the league in total defense, but those numbers might not be a completely accurate representation of how well the group is playing.
Since Pagano has taken over, the Raiders have forced more turnovers, been stout against the run, and last weekend – albeit it in a losing effort – they held the dynamic Philadelphia Eagles defense to just 13 points before a last-minute pick-six sealed the win for Philly.
Khalil Mack and Co., will have their hands full Sunday afternoon as they try to slow down Philip Rivers; we’ll have to wait until Sunday evening to see if they succeeded.
3. Speaking of improved defensive play…
Very quietly, Sean Smith has been playing some quality football as of late.
Smith’s two interceptions are the most by any Raider, and last weekend, the veteran cornerback completely shut down Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery was targeted just twice on Monday Night Football, and was unable to haul in a single reception, mostly due to tight coverage all night by Smith.
No. 21 will look to finish 2017 on a high note, but he’ll once again draw a big challenge come game day, this time in the form of wide receiver Keenan Allen.
With 1,260 yards, Allen is in the midst of a career season in Los Angeles, and shutting down Rivers’ favorite target would go a long way to help secure a Raiders win.
4. Who leads the team in receiving?
With one game left on the regular season schedule, the battle to finish the season as the Raiders leading receiver looks to be down to two players; tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
Amari Cooper ranks third on the team with 565 receiving yards, but 88 yards off the pace set by Cook, it would take a lot for No. 89 to finish the season on top.
While the Chargers struggle defending the run, they’ve been pretty solid all season against the pass, so receiving yards will be at a premium Sunday afternoon.
So, when all is said and done, who will take home the receiving title for the Silver and Black? We’ll just have to wait and find out.
5. Party crashers
Look, we all know that the season is coming to an end on Sunday; it isn’t what the team wanted to have happen, but unfortunately, it’s what the team earned.
The Raiders won’t be playing in the postseason, but they still have a chance to impact which teams eventually *do *qualify for the playoffs.
With an overall record of 8-7, the Bolts are still in the thick of things in the AFC playoff picture, but in order for them to punch their ticket to the postseason tournament, they have to beat the Raiders, and then hope that the Tennessee Titans fall at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It’s not the craziest scenario for the Chargers to get in, but if the Raiders can hand the Bolts an “L” it’ll officially eliminate them from playoff contention.
Now, playing spoiler isn’t the role the Raiders wanted to be playing, but knocking a division rival out of the playoffs would be a pretty nice way to end the season.
**6. A home away from home
We all know that the Raider Nation is worldwide; every road trip we take we see flocks of Raiders fans, and there have been countless times where we’ve heard RAI-DERS chants in visiting stadiums.
Raider Nation is known for how well they travel, but Sunday’s game at the StubHub Center could be something different altogether.
Last year, when the Raiders flew down to Southern California to play the then San Diego Chargers, the fans of the Silver and Black completely took over Qualcomm Stadium, so much so, that Philip Rivers and the Bolts were booed when they took the field.
We expect to see a similar showing from Raider Nation in Los Angeles, and I for one, am really excited to see just how complete the takeover is.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:25 p.m.