The Los Angeles Chargers are traveling to Las Vegas in one of their strangest matchups of the year agains the division rival Raiders. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Chargers as 3-point underdogs in this Thursday Night Football game.
The first time these two faced off, fourth round rookie quarterback Aidan O’Connell notched his first career start in Los Angeles, filling in for an injured Jimmy Garappolo with Josh McDaniels leading the team. Many weeks later, O’Connell has usurped Jimmy G, McDaniels has been fired and Antonio Pierce has actually led the Raiders to a clean 2-2 record in his interim role.
This week the Chargers are visiting the Raiders, with their backup quarterback facing off against Aidan O’Connell. Easton Stick will be getting the first career start of his five-year career, and is playing to prove his viability as a backup quarterback in this league. Serviceable backup quarterbacks can have long, respectable careers in the NFL, but they have to perform in the spots they’re called into.
With Easton Stick headed to free agency this offseason, there’s no better time than the present for him to show the world he’s ready for this role. If he flounders, Max Duggan is lying in wait behind him, with built-in chemistry from his college days with two fellow rookie receivers.
Here are some of the key matchups that could likely end up determining this game.
Keenan Allen vs. Nate Hobbs
You know what every young quarterback with less-than-stellar accuracy needs? A receiver that can create true separation, allowing some extra cushion in the throwing lanes.
Hobbs wasn’t available in Week Four when the Chargers and Raiders last played, forcing Amik Robertson to play in the slot. Robertson gave up the most receiving yards for the Raiders that day, and has only started as the slot back for one other game this season.
Hobbs provides a decent upgrade, although his current NFL passer rating allowed is an unimpressive 100.4. He’s productive against the run, and is still an above-average slot defender, so be sure to keep an eye on this matchup.
Chargers’ Cornerbacks vs Raiders’ Receivers
Last match, the cornerback unit failed to capitalize on the Day Three rookie quarterback’s debut. While Asante Samuel Jr played well in coverage, Ja’Sir Taylor and Michael Davis combined for 13 receptions and 137 yards allowed. All three cornerbacks combined for five missed tackles.
Last week, the three starting cornerbacks only allowed six catches for 83 total yards, despite playing against Russell Wilson and a Sean Payton-led offense. They also only missed two tackles.
Part of the uptick in play appears to have come from Essang Bassey replacing Ja’Sir Taylor in the slot, and a part may be from Brandon Staley playing slightly more aggressive defense within his scheme. Whatever the case may be, playing tight enough coverage to capitalize on some Aidan O’Connell mistakes is a clear key to victory in this matchup.
Be sure to stay tuned for additional updates on this matchup throughout the week.