The Chargers (6-5) travel to the Las Vegas Raiders (4-7) for the second game of their season series. We’ve brought in Matt Holder of Silver & Black Pride once again to help us preview this divisional matchup.
As always with Matt, he gave us plenty of information to chew on so let’s go ahead and dive right in.
1.) In their first matchup this year, the Raiders relied heavily on Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs to lead them offensively. Since then, have any other offensive players stepped up to produce this season?
No, I’d say they’re even more reliant on Adams and Jacobs than they were before. With Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller on injured reserve — though both are eligible to return this week — it’s Adams or bust in the passing game as no one else has stepped up and Mack Hollins has cooled down from his hot start to the year. That’s also forced the Raiders to run the ball more which is a part of the reason why Jacobs has been putting up some ridiculous numbers lately.
Comparing this Sunday to the season opener, committing to the rushing attack would probably be the biggest difference in Josh McDaniels’ gameplan since Jacobs only had 10 carries — tied for his fewest of the season — in the first game because they were playing from behind so much. Without the weapons on the outside, McDaniels has to run the ball more regardless of what the scoreboard reads.
2.) On the other side of the ball, sometimes it seems like the defense goes as Maxx Crosby goes. What other defenders have been able to help lead the unit this year?
That’s been one of their biggest problems defensively this year, especially after Nate Hobbs went on injured reserve with a broken hand in Week 5. Fellow cornerback Rock Ya-Sin has been solid and is probably Las Vegas’ next-best defender after Crosby but they lack playmakers on that side of the ball. Hobbs was designated to return from IR last week but wasn’t activated, so there’s a chance he’ll suit up on Sunday which would be a big boost for the Raiders’ defense and allow Ya-Sin to fall back into the CB2 role which he’s much more suited for.
Defensive tackle Bilal Nichols has been playing better as a pass rusher over the last two weeks after the team picked up former Charger Jerry Tillery. I’m not sure if Tillery’s presence has helped free Nichols up and get more one-on-one blocks, or if that just lit a fire in Nichols, but regardless, he has been playing better. Chandler Jones is coming off of a strong performance in Seattle too, but he’s still been pretty disappointing for the majority of the campaign.
3.) Now over three-quarters of the way through his first season at the helm, what’s the current temperature of the fan base in regards to Josh McDaniels? Are they okay with being patient or do you think his seat is heating up as the season goes on?
Two wins in the last two weeks have certainly calmed the fan base down, but I’d still say most of Raider Nation doesn’t want to see McDaniels back on the sidelines in Las Vegas. This was a team that came into the year with high expectations after making the playoffs a year ago — I can’t remember who they beat to make it ;-) — but have fallen flat on their faces this season. Before this recent win streak, they had the second-worst record in the NFL so fans were justifiably pissed.
All of that being said, every report that has come out about McDaniels’ job security has been that he’s in no danger of getting canned. Mark Davis has even gone so far as to say McDaniels has done a “fantastic job” (direct quote), so it doesn’t sound like anything is changing despite the frustrating season.
4.) The Raiders declined to pick up Josh Jacobs’ fifth-year option during the offseason. Since, he’s become one of the most productive rushers in the NFL this year. How do you personally think the Raiders should handle his contract situation from here on out? Do they tag him? Extend him ASAP? What path is in the best interests of the Raiders?
The Raiders really played themselves with the Jacobs contract situation. His fifth-year option was going to be roughly $8 million and some change and now, the franchise tag for a running back will probably be in the $12-$15 million range, and I think Jacobs will undoubtedly surpass Christian McCaffrey as the league’s high-paid back at over $16 million on his next contract with the season he’s having.
Honestly, I wish I had a profound and definitive take on what McDaniels and general manager Dave Zeigler should do in this situation, but I don’t. I see both sides of the argument where Jacobs has been such a big and important part of their offense that they can’t let him go, but they also signed Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, Derek Carr and Davante Adams to big contracts in the offense. As noted above, they desperately need to add defensive playmakers in the offseason so does it make sense to hand out another large contract to an offensive skill player? Especially at the least-valuable position on that side of the ball?
McDaniels and Zeigler also spent a third of their draft picks on running backs last offseason so they have a couple of “running backs in waiting” if you will. But, again, Jacobs has been pretty special this season and might be one of the few exceptions to the “RBs don’t matter” argument. I think the coaching staff’s hope was that they’d use a committee approach in the backfield with those young guys getting some touches this season, but the impending free agent has proven to be a bell-cow back.
5.) The Chargers are 2.5-point favorites on the road this week against the Raiders with the over/under set at 51.0, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Go ahead and tell us how you see this game shaking out, a final score prediction, and whether or not you’re taking the over or under in this game
I’ll preface this by saying I’ve been absolutely horrible at predicting their games this year. I think I’ve gotten maybe two right so far. So, I’ll go with the Chargers winning 28-24 in hopes of keeping my jinx alive.
As I mentioned earlier, the Raiders are hot right now but I’m not going to overreact to an overtime win against the lowly Broncos and another overtime win against the Seahawks who played one of their worst games of the season. This is still a team that in the span of three weeks, got blown out 24-0 by the Saints, blew a 17-point lead to the Jaguars and lost to the Jeff Saturday-led Colts in Saturday’s first game as an NFL or college coach.
I do think Jacobs will have a big game against the Chargers’ terrible run defense, but Justin Herbert and LA’s weapons are a mismatch against Vegas’ secondary that could take the ball out of the running backs’ hands.