Raiders Preview: Both Teams Banged Up As Las Vegas Hosts Chargers In Must-Win Game
Nelson Agholor
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When a team gets two chances to score from the goal line, you almost assume they’ll get it (not to mention when your defense is as bad as the Las Vegas Raiders) — and yet, somehow, when the Los Angeles Chargers and Raiders met in November, the Raider defense held.

Now, on a Thursday Night in December, the Chargers get their shot at revenge…

Five Observations

1) One of the big storylines coming into this game will be injuries, as both the Raider defense and the Charger offense are depleted. Thursday morning brought news that wide reciever Mike Williams was unlikely to play, while Keenan Allen’s hamstring meant he would be hobbled at best. Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, the Raiders will be without Johnathan Abram, Damon Arnette, Nicholas Morrow and Clelin Ferrell — in addition to Maliek Collins and Jeff Heath who are on injured reserve. All six of these players would be starters if healthy.

2) The reason I say that’s “one of” the big storylines is because the headliner will be Rod Marinelli’s first game in charge of the defense. Now, expecting any improvement on a short week with six starters out seems foolish, but who knows — really, anything would be viewed as improvement at this point I think.

3) We all know how bad the Raider run defense has been, but thankfully they’re facing a team this week that has struggled to run the ball themselves. Over the past three weeks, the Chargers are averaging just 83.7 yards per game (27th in the league) — while the Raiders are allowing 181 yards per game over their last three. The first time these two teams met, the Chargers ran for 128 yards on 31 carries — but that was without Austin Ekeler, the team’s best running back.

4) Speaking of Ekeler, the guy has seen an absurd 34 targets over the past three weeks — and with the Raiders short handed defensively, that could be a problem. Cory Littleton was brought in to defend tight ends and running backs, and tonight he’ll get plenty of chances to prove he is better than his play has suggested thus far.

5) After a breakout last season, Josh Jacobs has run for over 100 yards just twice all season — with the last one coming over a month ago. Last week was his first week back after missing a game, and it was also the first game back for right tackle Trent Brown as well. I think if there’s one number that could indicate which way this game is going to go, it might be whether or not Jacobs can get things going on the ground. The Raiders ran for 160 yards last time against the Chargers, with Jacobs and Booker both going over 60 yards a piece. Over the last three weeks, the Chargers have the 26th-best run defense, giving up 135.7 yards per game.

Two Predictions

1) Lots. Of. Points. If I were to go with a player prediction, I do think Littleton has a notable game. I think he has been desperately waiting for a big moment, and I think he shows up big tonight. Aside from that, though, I don’t think there’s going to be much defense at all played in this game. Yes, the Chargers are missing some weapons on offense, but the Raiders are depleted at every level of the defense — especially at safety, where they have been bad to begin with! The total for the game is 52, and I think this is going way over.

2) Whether the Raiders win or not will come down to Jacobs and Derek Carr. Both of those guys need to have huge games, and they need to play near-flawless football. I think that between facing a rookie quarterback and the guys who will be out, I think the defense comes up with 2-3 stops — meaning the Raider margin for victory will be extremely slim. But I think they pull it off.

Prediction: Raiders 38, Chargers 34