Sunday’s Los Angeles Chargers game against Denver can only be described as “meh.” And on top of it all, Justin Herbert suffered a fracture to the index finger of his throwing hand. As of yesterday, he was placed on injured reserve after having surgery and the QB 1 reins have been handed to Easton Stick for the remainder of the season.
Considering the Raiders are coming off a shutout loss, they’re going to be looking for redemption, while the Chargers are just looking to survive without their franchise quarterback. Here are some matchups to be on the lookout for.
Three Key Matchups To Watch For In Week 15 Chargers Vs Raiders
1. Easton Stick Vs The Raiders Pass Rush
Starting Stick is something that I’ve always been worried about, given his lack of NFL game experience. And when you’re against a powerful pass rusher like Maxx Crosby, who despite Sunday’s shutout still had two sacks, with a questionable offensive line like the Chargers have, the worry becomes heightened.
Crosby is currently listed on the injury report with a knee injury so it’s not clear if he’ll play Thursday, but even if he doesn’t, the Raiders have other players to step up in this area like linebacker Robert Spillane, who already has four sacks on the year.
Herbert was sacked four times this last game while Stick was sacked twice. Stick will need all the protection he can get in order to make it through in one piece.
Brandon Staley said in Tuesday’s press conference that they’ll have to play team offense on Thursday, and he’s right in more ways than one. Every part of this offense will be critical to make sure Stick is successful. This is a great opportunity for him to show what he can do and prove that he’s the right choice for their backup moving forward.
2. Khalil Mack Vs Aidan O’Connell
Quarterback Aidan O’Connell had a rude awakening for his first-ever NFL start the first time these two teams played as he was sacked seven times during the matchup. Six of those sacks were from edge rusher Mack who’s been playing so well this season. Mack will look to make a repeat performance during Thursday night’s game. Though he didn’t have any sacks this last game, he did have some hurries as well as one batted pass. His stats may not always be off the charts but when he’s active, he’s making an impact.
3. Raiders Wide Receivers Vs Chargers Secondary
As the Raiders will be looking to bounce back from their past loss, I expect the target volume to definitely go up for wide receivers Davante Adams and Jakobi Meyers. Adams in particular had his worst receiving grade of the season (50.3%) this last game, including his fifth dropped pass of the year. Meyers also had a drop and very low receiving yardage against Minnesota (25 yards). If given the chance, these two can rebound in a big way.
Cornerback Michael Davis did fairly well this past Sunday for his first time on the field after not playing for a few weeks. He stepped in for Deane Leonard, who had replaced him as starter but was out for this past game. The only play where Davis didn’t do so well was on Russell Wilson’s deep shot to wide receiver Courtland Sutton in the end zone. Despite Davis’ tight coverage, Sutton still managed to haul it in with one hand for the touchdown. Otherwise, Davis had a tackle during the first quarter where he got the ball out from Marvin Mims Jr. for a turnover and kept everyone pretty contained. If Leonard is still unable to play, I expect Davis to step up and have a similar performance.
Safety Alohi Gilman had his own issue with Sutton, allowing a first down and more (14 yards after the catch) before tackling him during the first quarter. Adams is definitely on another level than Sutton, while Meyers is on track to exceed his career-high receiving touchdown number from last year (six).
The Chargers will have to be on high alert for these two. Plus if running back Josh Jacobs plays who’s been nursing a quad injury, that’s another big piece to contend with as the Chargers’ run defense was middle of the road against the Broncos.