It’s almost here.
We’re zeroing in on 48 hours until the Chargers take the field against the Raiders in a winner-take-all matchup to punch their ticket to the postseason.
Both of these teams have seemingly scratched and clawed their way to staying in the hunt for a playoff berth and neither are going to lay down without giving it everything they have for the cause. No matter what happens on Sunday night, this will be a game that both fan bases will talk about for years to come. I just hope the Chargers can find themselves on the right side of history.
As always, these are the three biggest things I’ll be watching for when the Bolts take the field this Sunday. Enjoy!
1.) How will the Chargers handle the return of Darren Waller?
Waller hasn’t played a football in six weeks due to lingering injuries. This will be his first back since the Raiders played the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, a game where he only totaled two receptions for 33 yards. On the year, he’s got just two touchdowns, one of which came against the Chargers in week four. He also caught four passes that game for 50 yards.
Waller hasn’t been setting the world on fire even when he’s been healthy, however. He’s only got two games over the 100-yard mark and only three games with six or more catches.
A healthy Derwin James always spells a bad day for opposing tight ends. He put the clamps on Travis Kelce in week 15 and he’s poised to see a lot of Waller this Sunday night. However, due to James’ immense amount of roles on this defense, other defenders will likely draw Waller in coverage, as well. Kyzir White and Chris Harris Jr. are the likely candidates, but don’t be surprised to see Renaldo Hill use Michael Davis to cover Waller at times due to his speed and length, as well.
2.) Can Justin Herbert crack 5,000 yards?
With an additional game in 2021, Herbert has the chance to set the Chargers’ all-time passing record against the Raiders. That mark is currently held by Dan Fouts who thew for 4,802 yards during the 1986 season when the Chargers finished 10-6. With 4,631 yards, Herbert needs just 172 to put himself atop the record books.
Now, if he wants to shoot for even loftier goals, he can throw for 369 yards to reach 5,000 passing yards on the year, a feat no other Chargers quarterback has ever accomplished up to this point. And yes, it’s in the team’s 17th game, but these will be the marks future records we talk about as the 17-game regular season continues to be reality for the next however many decades until they make another change.
3.) Will we see a return to the aggressive fourth-down play-calling by Brandon Staley?
I believe if you’ve paid close enough attention to Brandon Staley’s fourth-down play-calling habits while watching every single one of the Chargers games up to this point, you’d have noticed a slight drop in his propensity to keep the offense on the field.
Against the Texans, he chose to kick a field goal within the five-yard line, believing that three points was enough against a supposed “lowly” opponent. Against the Broncos, he did it again when he kicked from the one-yard line. In the end, it didn’t matter as they wound up blowing them out, but that’s a pretty far jump off from the coach that would go for it on fourth down almost three to four times per game.
In Las Vegas, the hope is the Chargers won’t HAVE to go for it on fourth down to stay in the game. But if that moment comes, I hope Staley is locked and loaded to cement the first brick of his legacy with the right call.