For our first “5 Questions with the Enemy” post of the 2022 season, we brought back Matt Holder of Silver and Black Pride to answer all of our questions regarding this week’s opponent, the Las Vegas Raiders. If you want to read their article where I answer their set of questions for this matchup, you can check it out once it drops on Silver & Black Pride. For those who are putting money on the game, DraftKings Sportsbook has the Chargers -3.5 heading into the game.
Not much to say other than that so let’s dive right in!
1.) Chargers fans have waited roughly eight months for this opportunity at a revenge game against the Raiders. Of course, as the winners of that game, it likely hasn’t been viewed in the same light by Las Vegas fans. What would you say is the temperature right now of the fan base heading into this season opener? Are they looking forward to it with any extra motivation or is it just another brawl in the AFC West to them?
While the Raiders did win last season’s winner-take-all matchup, the fanbase isn’t taking this game lightly and always looks at the Chargers games as must-wins. Especially since Raider Nation has a strong presence in L.A. I think the offseason has also added some extra motivation, as the two teams had arguably the best offseasons in the entire league and the Chargers added a former Raider in Khalil Mack. A lot of fans, myself included, look at Week 1 as a great litmus test for how much each team has really improved, and a lot of people are still bitter about Mack’s exit so there’s plenty of motivation on our end.
2.) The Raiders really went out and added Davante Adams to their offense. It still doesn’t sound real. What are the expectations for Adams this season? Do you believe he’ll look like the Packers version or will there be some growing pains despite Adams’ history with Derek Carr?
While I don’t think Adams’ stat line will be as impressive as it was when he had a four-time MVP throwing him the ball, I do expect him to continue to play at an All-Pro or Pro Bowl level. He’s in the conversation for the best wide receiver in the NFL and is getting paid like it and with that comes a certain level of expectations. Do I think Adams will put up the career-high 1,500 yards he did last year or the career-high 18 touchdowns he had two years ago? No, but sitting around the 1,300 and 10 marks seems reasonable to me.
As for if the former Fresno State Bulldogs will have some growing pains, there’s bound to be bumps early on but I honestly think they’ll hit the ground running faster than most first-year QB/WR connections would. They have a history of playing together and all the reports coming out of training camp were they picked up right where they left off, which was highlighted by multiple Patriots beat writers saying the Carr to Adams duo was almost unfair during their joint practices with New England a few weeks ago.
3.) Both the Raiders offensive line and secondary have seen better days. Which position group worries you the most? Which one do you see being exploited the most by the Chargers in this matchup?
If you had asked me this question at the beginning of August, I would have said the secondary but now, it’s undoubtedly the offensive line. Originally, I was hopeful that Alex Leatherwood would figure it out but that obviously didn’t happen, leaving Jermaine Eluemunor, who entered camp as a backup guard and emergency tackle, to hold down the right edge. Right guard Lester Cotton has also struggled over the past month, so I am very worried about what Joey Bosa and Mack will do to the right side of the line. If I were Brandon Staley, I’d leave Kolton Miller alone and put the two premier pass rushers on the same side and attack the two biggest weak points on Las Vegas’ roster.
The secondary is a concern, too, with a couple of $20 million receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams set to take on a bunch of defensive backs on rookie contracts, but at least the pass rush combination of Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones can help in that department.
4.) I’d be remiss not to mention the acquisition of pass rusher Chandler Jones, as well. What are your expectations for him and Maxx Crosby this season? Do you see Jones supplanting Crosby as the team’s top pass rusher or do you see him playing second fiddle to Mad Maxx this year?
I look at the Jones signing as a way to take some of the pressure off Crosby and not the other way around. Don’t get me wrong, Jones has over 100 career sacks and is a premier rusher in the league, but Crosby is the up-and-comer who I think still has his best football ahead of him. Mad Maxx has been quietly ascending every year since he entered the league, last season was just the first time the rest of the NFL started to take notice. He drew double team after double team down the stretch, and while Yannick Ngakoue was great, Jones should command more of the offense’s attention than Ngakoue did, giving Crosby more one-on-one opportunities.
5.) Give us a short summary of how you see this matchup going and top it all off with a final score prediction
I’ll be a bit of a homer since it’s Week 1 and I’m bullish on the Raiders’ outlook for 2022, so I’ll say they win 24-22. I’m assuming the analytics-driven Staley will go for two or something in the season opener to make it a weird score, hence the 22, and I think Josh McDaniels is a good enough offensive play-caller who will get the ball out of Carr’s hand quickly, and/or give Carr some extra protection to push the ball down the field. Defensively, I think Brandon Graham will dip into his bag to try and confuse Justin Herbert and generate some pressure to help out the secondary.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.