It's always good to see these old rivals hook up in a good ole showdown of mutual hate. Granted, it was also more fierce when we were talking about it being an Oakland-San Diego matchup, given the character of those two cities. But we're still talking about the Raiders and Chargers.
This has been a pretty hard-luck season for the Raiders (4-7) with six of their seven losses coming by one score. But the good news is that the Silver and Black are on a two-game win streak, including back-to-back walk-off overtime wins on the road — 22-16 at Denver and then last week's 40-34 nailbiter up in Seattle.
The Chargers are still in the hunt for the playoffs, though catching AFC West leader Kansas City probably won't happen. Still, improving on their 6-5 start is of utmost importance, and just like the Raiders, LA comes in having a panic of a finish on the road last week, scoring the game-winning touchdown and two-point conversion with 15 seconds left to down Arizona 25-24.
Los Angeles (6-5) at Las Vegas (4-7)
Three Things to Watch
1. The Josh Jacobs watch
Oh, this doesn't look good for the Bolts. As you probably saw, ole J.J. had a landmark performance in last week's win over the Seahawks, rambling for 229 yards on 33 carries, including the game-winning 86-yard buster in OT. His 303 total yards from scrimmage rank eighth in NFL history. Epic performance. The only problem was, he strained his calf during the game and was reportedly going to be a game-time decision this weekend vs. the Chargers. Apparently, he has been able to practice in a limited capacity this week, so there is that. If he's not 100 percent, look for Zamir White and Ameer Abdullah to pick up the slack because the Chargers give up 151.4 rushing yards per game and an NFL-worst 5.7 yards per carry. Oof. So look for a lot of hand-offs from the Silver and Black, but seeing Jacobs lining up in the backfield would be a game-changer.
2. Will Davante Adams crush the Chargers again?
Adams is fourth in the NFL in receiving, going for 6.5 catches and 90.8 yards per game. On top of that, he torched the Chargers D in Week 1 with 10 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown. In fact, there were times he was so wide open Jim Plunkett could've been in the pocket and connected with him while he wandered free against the Chargers' secondary. Also keep in mind that LA's defense has been particularly vulnerable to wide receivers, giving up a 92.3 rating in passes thrown to wideouts, one of the worst performances in the league.
3. The comfort level of Justin Herbert
Going into last week's game in Seattle, the Raiders' defense had accrued just 13 sacks through their first 10 games, the lowest total in the NFL. In fact, other than Maxx Crosby, no other Raider had recorded more than a sack. But last week, Las Vegas was able to disrupt Geno Smith a handful of times and get him down with the ball still in his hands three times. Still, the Raiders must get better at pressuring QBs, especially Herbert, who is a true drop-back passer with little threat to pull off big chunks of yards on scrambles. Crosby will, of course, be a key off the edge, but he'll need some better push from the unit's basic four-man rush. If the Raiders can't make Herbert jittery in the pocket, it could be a long day for Vegas since they have the NFL's worst pass defense in terms of completion rate at 76 percent. They can't simply allow Herbert to stand back there and pick them apart at will.
This matchup looks a lot different than the first meeting way back in Week 1. At that time, everybody thought the AFC West was going to be a grinder of a division, where all four teams making the playoffs would not be out of the question. But as it turns out, the Raiders now have a very incredibly slim chance to make the postseason (they basically have to win out and probably need some help), and the Chargers control their own destiny.
Last year, it was the Raiders ending the Chargers' season on the final weekend, a Week 18 overtime win at home putting Vegas into the playoffs. This Sunday, the Silver and Black can do the same thing. The only difference is that the Lightning Bolts can also return the favor to the Raiders' hopes. And they will.
Prediction: Chargers 37, Raiders 31 (OT)
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.
*Price as of publication.