It's been a tough few weeks for the Oakland Raiders.
After starting the season with back-to-back wins, the Silver and Black have dropped three games in a row, and now find themselves below .500 for the first time since 2015.
However, they'll get a chance to right the ship this Sunday afternoon when they welcome Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. How can the Raiders take down the Bolts you ask? Let's find out in this week's edition of the Raiders.com Mailbag.
From @lopez_cl0927: Is Derek Carr coming back to be the quarterback?
EP:it sure looks like it. After injuring his back in the Raiders Week 4 loss to the Denver Broncos, Carr returned to the practice field a few days later, but his back was just not ready for him to get back to game action, so he ceded the starting quarterback duties to EJ Manuel for a week. Even though he was forced to be a spectator for the Week 5 tilt against the Baltimore Ravens, Carr unsurprisingly returned to the practice field Wednesday afternoon, albeit in a limited capacity. He was also limited in Thursday's practice, but after being a full-go Friday, No. 4 was officially taken off the injury report headed into Sunday's game against the Chargers. Does being removed from the injury report ensure that Carr is under center tomorrow afternoon? Not necessarily, but at this point, I think it would be a surprise if we *didn't *see No. 4 back in action.
From Evan C: Have the fires in the North Bay had any effect on the team's day-to-day routine?
EP:First of all, any changes the Raiders have had to make to their daily schedules pale in comparison to the effects these dangerous fires have had on people all throughout the North Bay. During the regular season, it's really easy to forget that there's a world outside the NFL, but it's during moments like these, you really remember that life is indeed more important than wins and losses. That being said, yes, the Raiders have had to make a few adjustments throughout the week for the safety of the players. With air quality obviously less than ideal, the Raiders not only changed their practice schedule around, but cut down the length of those on-field sessions as well. Don't worry though, Head Coach Jack Del Rio was asked about the week of preparation, and he said that his group was able to accomplish everything they needed to over the past few days.
From Yukon B: Offensively, what will the key be to beating the Bolts?
EP:Well, as we all know, nearly everything that the Silver and Black want to do offensively begins with Derek Carr. It's hard to overstate just how important getting No. 4 back in the mix against the Chargers is; Head Coach Del Rio called "DC" the offense's triggerman, and that's a pretty accurate take on what he means to this team. Outside of Carr though, I really think it's going to be important to get the Raiders trio of running backs rolling against the Chargers. Not only is balance the name of the game for Todd Downing's offense, but through five games, the Bolts have had a really hard time limiting opposing teams on the ground, allowing a league-high 161.2 rushing yards per game. The Silver and Black's ground attack had a resurgent day against the Baltimore Ravens last week – albeit in a losing effort – so hopefully they replicate that once again, particularly with a healthy DeAndré Washington back in the mix.
From Willy D: What's the one battle that you're looking forward to watch Sunday afternoon?
EP:Great question, Willy. With these two teams, there really isn't a lack of quality choices, but I'm going to admit that I'm really fired up to watch Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa each do their thing Sunday afternoon. Now, obviously, Mack and Bosa won't be squaring off against each other on the field – sidenote: how fun would that be – but they're both members of a very, small group of defenders that have the ability to completely take over a game. Headed into Week 6, Mack has four sacks, and Bosa has 4.5, but I don't think that either of their impact can be measured by just looking at their stats. Both these dominant edge rushers are at the top of their games, so keep an eye on both of them Sunday afternoon, and see which one of these guys can impart their will more.
From @mountainraider1: Are you guys going to get back to the bullyball style? You have a runner in Lynch that can grind out yards if he gets a block for him.
EP:Like we discussed above, the Silver and Black are typically at their best when the run game complements the aerial attack, and vice versa. And you're right, when Marshawn Lynch is at his best, you'd be hard pressed to find a player in the NFL – maybe in NFL history – who runs as hard, and as violently, as Beast Mode. While I'm sure that Todd Downing would like to consistently feed The Beast early and often, it's also important to remember that the flow of the game also dictates how hard the Raiders can lean on the run game. I'm with you though, particularly with this offensive line, there's no reason that the Silver and Black can't grind out a game, and wear down a defensive line over 60 minutes.
From Leon B: What's your favorite memory against the Chargers:
EP:This one is easy. Week 15. 2016. Qualcomm Stadium. The Raiders not only took down the Bolts 19-16, but with that win, the Silver and Black punched their first ticket to the playoffs since 2002. On top of all that, Raider Nation *completely *took over the Stadium, painting the Chargers home stadium black. From booing the Bolts pregame to the thunderous RAI-DERS chants that occurred throughout the afternoon, it was an awesome day to be a Raider. Hopefully tomorrow afternoon will be just as fun.