After barely surviving against the 49ers last week, the Los Angeles Chargers will welcome the division rival Oakland Raiders in Week 5.
It looked like a mismatch on paper, especially with Jimmy Garoppolo (torn ACL) out, but the Los Angeles Chargers survived a roller coaster (trailing 14-6 at the end of the first quarter, leading 26-17 in the third quarter) to rally for 29-27 win in Week 4.
The Oakland Raiders won their first game in the Jon Gruden era 2.0 last week, rallying for a 45-42 overtime win over the Cleveland Browns. Derek Carr threw for 437 yards and four touchdowns in the game (with two interceptions), and he’s fourth in the league in passing yards through four weeks with at least 288 yards through the air in all four contests.
Much has been made about Oakland’s lack of pass rush after trading Khalil Mack, but the Chargers have the same issue without defensive Joey Bosa (foot). They are tied for 22nd in the league in sacks (eight), and without five sacks of Josh Allen against a bad Bills’ offensive line in Week 2 that number would be even worse.
According to Next Gen Stats and ESPN, the Chargers are generating pressure within 2.5 seconds of the snap on just 14 percent of dropbacks this year. That’s tied for the third-lowest rate in the league in that very specific metric. For comparison sake, the Rams lead the league at 36 percent and the league average is 21 percent. That lack of pressure is a key factor in the Chargers’ struggles against the pass thus far (275.8 yards per came; 21st in the league).
The return of defensive tackle Corey Liuget from a four-game suspension should help, even if he’s on a snap count in his first game back. The Chargers are tied for 17th in the league against the run, while allowing 4.2 yards per carry (18th in the league), so Liuget’s return should help primarily on that front.
The Raiders aren’t much better than the Chargers defensively so far this year, allowing just over 263 yards per game through the air (17th in the league) while of course bring up the rear in sacks (five; tied for last in the league), They’re also 30th in the league against the run (139.3 yards per game), so the Chargers’ backfield tandem of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler is in line for a big game.
Even in this year’s high-scoring NFL environment, Sunday’s game has the makings of a old-school AFL shootout between the Chargers and Raiders with two struggling defenses and two quarterbacks in the top-10 of the league in completion percentage. The 53.5 over-under is the second-highest on this week’s NFL slate, with more than two-thirds of betting action coming in on the over as of Thursday morning (via Oddsshark).
The Chargers look like a better team than the Raiders, and they need to assert that idea early in Sunday’s game after the 49ers jumped out on them last week. A win is always good, especially against a division rival. But how the Chargers look in a win on Sunday will be an important barometer for the second quarter of the 2018 season and beyond, while a loss might be a deflating negative tipping point for a team that had some preseason Super Bowl buzz.