Week 4 Preview: Chargers Vs. Raiders
What a win! The Los Angeles Chargers did what many did not think they were going to be able to do, they went into Kansas City and took down the Chiefs. For added measure, they did it in a close game. This new coaching staff seems to keep knocking down walls with things that this team has struggled with in the past. Coming into the season many people would’ve considered last week the most difficult matchup that the Chargers would come across this entire season. The fact that they were able to come away with a win is huge.
In the NFL, teams don’t have much time to dwell, Brandon Staley mentioned on Colin Cowherd’s show “The Herd” this previous week that you definitely celebrate on the flight back, but eventually you are in the film for the team that you are playing next and how you can take advantage of them. There isn’t time to rest in the NFL, especially when you are playing a team as talented as the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chargers week 4 pass rush.
The Raiders feature many problems for opposing teams. They have the quarterback that leads the NFL in passing yards and an edge rusher that leads the NFL in pressures yet doesn’t even lead his team in sacks. There is definitely talent on their team. I am going to do exactly what I did last week and highlight two different x-factors and two different key matchups for this week.
X-Factor 1: Slow Down Darren Waller
This one is obvious, Waller is a consensus top-three tight end in the NFL, and there really is no debating it. Last week I talked about Travis Kelce and how Derwin James was going to be tasked with slowing him down. Staley surprised many people when Michael Davis was the main person to be guarding Kelce last week.
On that note, I am not going to try and act like I understand the mind of Brandon Staley. The task of stopping Waller will be similar to Kelce, the main difference is the Raiders don’t really have a number two target near the talent level of Tyreek Hill so the Chargers theoretically should be able to put more of their attention to Waller without worrying about another all-pro level talent. Waller easily has the most targets on the team with 11 more than the next closest player, so it’s essential that they focus on him early and often to knock Derek Carr off rhythm.
I expect him to get multiple looks from this Staley defense in order to keep him off-balance, whether it be having a linebacker or defensive end hitting him off the line, to having Davis or James run with him step for step. I understand the sentiment that you want James to be able to roam the field, but I would like to see James be lined up 1 on 1 on Waller for a lot of this game, there is no bigger threat on the offense, or anyone really all that close.
Key Matchup 1: Maxx Crosby Vs. Storm Norton (and others)
The keyword here could be others. At least I desperately hope there are others. I’ve watched a good amount of film on Crosby and the majority of the damage he does is from the left end spot, which is where the right tackle lines up. In this case, Norton, who has been pretty inconsistent in the two and a half games that he’s played. He’s held his own against good players and then looked like he was severely overmatched against Micah Parsons. Unfortunately, Crosby seems like the type that is going to do everything he can to take advantage of this matchup.
Obviously, the coaching staff will want to see if Norton can hold his own against Crosby, but they will have to be conscious of helping him with tight ends or running backs off the edge. As I mentioned earlier, Crosby leads the NFL in pressures and if the Chargers aren’t careful he could single-handedly wreck this game.
X-Factor 2: Getting Off The Field
This one is crucial. The Raiders are in the top 10 in the NFL in both time of possession and third-down conversion percentage. The Chargers have a good time of possession but their third-down defense is 28th in the NFL. Stopping teams on third down is as important to winning as anything. Stopping any team on third down really starts on first down. The Chargers are currently allowing 5.8 yards per carry, with a run defense that bad it only makes sense that teams get into very manageable third-down situations and why the Chargers can’t seem to get off the field.
Thankfully, the Raiders only run on 22% of the time on first down. Staley’s scheme invites teams to run the ball, he is more than happy for a team to run the ball instead of throwing it. Unfortunately, this approach hasn’t exactly been the best for them this year. The two-high safety look with not as many in the box make it easier to run the ball and more difficult to throw it. You would hope that the Raiders are stubborn and keep throwing it and playing to the Chargers’ strengths, however, Josh Jacobs could be back this game so it will be an interesting chess match. If these things fall into the Chargers’ favor they will find themselves in a more promising third-down situation where they can get off the field.
Key Matchup 2: Joe Lombardi Vs. Gus Bradley
I am very, very excited to see how this plays out. I know that Gus Bradley is probably a great person but I was always one of the first people that wanted him out of Los Angeles. If he has Pro-bowl level players at all levels, mainly in the secondary then he can do great things. Obviously, he does not have that level of talent in Las Vegas – at least not yet. Bradley has never been good at making adjustments and I am excited to see how Joe Lombardi plans on exploiting this soft cover-three scheme.
Many times during his time with the Chargers Bradley would have a phenomenal first half, and then just get absolutely blown out in the second half due to lack of adjustments. The Chargers need to make sure to at least keep the game even in the first half and then they will be able to make the proper adjustments.
I want to include another matchup within this of the Chargers’ receivers going up against the Raiders’ defensive backs. I have loved how the Chargers have used both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams this season. They are getting both of them involved early and often and are using them all over the field. The Raiders corners, including Casey Hayward, have had a “good” start to the year but haven’t had to go against any above-average passing attack just yet.
I am beyond excited about this game. It is the Chargers’ first primetime game of the year and they are going against their most hated division rival, which also happens to be 3-0. I believe the Chargers are primed to show out under the lights in front of a national audience.
Final score prediction: Chargers 31, Raiders 27