1. Marshawn Lynch's traditional stats have not been terribly impressive this year, but his advanced stats look pretty good (12th in DYAR and 11th in DVOA). In your opinion, which is more representative of the season he is having?
They both are, honestly. Depending on the game. He had two great games early, then looked terrible for two weeks. In those two weeks in Washington and Denver, he was not on the same page with his offensive line at all. He seemed lost at times, didn't trust the gaps he saw, and danced around trying to do too much instead of just taking the yards he had in front of him. After that game in Denver, he got together with the offensive line to try and iron out what was going wrong. Last week against the Ravens he was back on track. He was picking up chunk yards on most carries. His yards per carry doesn't show it, but if you consider he was given just 12 carries and a couple of them were a one-yard first down run and a 3-yard touchdown run, it brought the number down a bit. So, in regards to his stats being representative of his abilities, the advanced stats are more accurate.
2. Amari Cooper is having a really disappointing year statistically. Does that match up with how he actually looks on the field or should we expect to see the numbers trending up soon?
It matches up. He has been terrible. He leads the league by a wide margin with 7 drops and despite all his efforts to prove he can be a more aggressive receiver, he still gets pushed around a lot. He has always run good routes and when you combine that with his speed, he can get open. That has masked his lack of aggression. But now he is not getting open, when he has he has dropped the ball, and if it's a 50/50 ball, he will lose that battle every time.
It has been my belief that his knee injury is the main cause of his struggles this season. As another sign of his lack of toughness, when he gets banged up, he can't function properly. As a rookie he hurt his ankle around midseason. He had been on a tear before that, and he played through the injury, but immediately started dropping passes. By season's end, he had the second most drops in the league. He was sidelined most of camp with a knee injury and each week has been limited in practice.
That being said, there were a couple instances last week where he beat hi man off the line and got wide open. EJ Manuel just didn't see him. Many question whether Coop would drop those passes had he been thrown the ball. That's a reasonable criticism, but his moves showed he still has the quickness and breakaway speed if he can just get out of his head or alternately put mind over matter and adjust to having the knee issue.
3. The Raiders have had one of the worst defenses in the league this season. What has gone wrong there?
First and foremost, they're not forcing turnovers. They have just two forced fumbles on defense this season and ZERO interceptions. Last season they were an opportunistic defense which made up for some of their flaws. Bruce Irvin led the league with 6 forced fumbles, Khalil Mack was second with five, and Reggie Nelson had five interceptions. Thus far this season none of them has any. There has been some improved play in the defensive interior and the secondary, but it isn't enough because they haven't been taking the ball away. Add that the offense has been terrible, which keeps the defense on the field longer and you've got problems.
4. The Oakland offensive line looked like one of the best heading into the season but they have been below average by Adjusted Line Yards and Adjusted Sack Rate. What do you think has caused that?
It's most likely the new offense. Pro Football Focus still loves this line because they don't put most of the sacks on them. Teams are blitzing a great deal because it's working. They smell blood in the water. Those blitzes aren't being picked up and that falls on the quarterback and offensive coordinator. The offense has been predictable. The offense hasn't been fooling anyone. They feel confident if they blitz, they won't pay for it. The Raiders have also utilized the play action just 11 times this season, which is fewest in the league. Opposing defenses don't have to second guess themselves. They just fly to the ball or fly to the quarterback.
5. What is your score prediction for this Sunday's game?
You don't know how much I struggled with picking this week's game. I really liked the talent on the Chargers this season. But thus far, they and the Raiders have both had serious issues. Both teams have a lot to prove. Derek Carr returning to the lineup and Marshawn looking like he has rediscovered his lanes tipped my opinion literally at the last minute back to the Raiders winning this one. Let's go Raiders 20, Chargers 17.