August 4, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Chargers vs. Raiders matchups: Can Chargers stop Derek Carr?

Breaking down how the Chargers (4-9) and Las Vegas Raiders (7-6) match up heading into Thursday’s game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas at 5:20 p.m. PT (TV: Fox, NFL Network)

When Chargers have the ball: In the three weeks since the return of dynamic and explosive running back Austin Ekeler, the Chargers have not been dynamic and explosive. They have only 37 points during that stretch and were shut out by New England. Ekeler has 61 touches — 37 carries, 24 receptions — for 343 yards in those three games and has yet to score. In fact, in seven games this season, Ekeler has one touchdown. And he might not get a chance to improve on those numbers as the Chargers are listing him as questionable with a quadriceps injury. Now comes a Las Vegas defense that has permitted two of its last three opponents to reach 40 points. The situation with the Raiders is so dire that Paul Guenther was just fired as defensive coordinator following a 44-27 loss to Indianapolis. Las Vegas made the move despite having only three days to prepare for the Chargers. Only two teams have surrendered more points than the Raiders and those teams (Dallas and the New York Jets) are a combined 4-22. Even with a winning record at 7-6, Las Vegas is minus-41 in point deferential. All of which suggests a potential awakening for a Chargers offense that has fallen to 22nd in the NFL in scoring.

When Raiders have the ball: After opening November with three wins, Las Vegas has lost three of four. The only victory came on a near-miracle, last-second 46-yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to Henry Ruggs. The desperation completion beat the winless Jets and was so dramatic that New York promptly fired its defensive coordinator. Carr is coming off a two-touchdown, two-interception game against the Colts. The Chargers had three pickoffs Sunday, their most in a single game since 2017. The Raiders had two 200-yard rushing efforts in November but haven’t run for more than 89 yards in any of their last four games. The Chargers held the Falcons to 70 yards rushing, their best defensive performance of 2020. Las Vegas also has turned the ball over 10 times the last three weeks. Although takeaways have been an issue for the Chargers for most of this season, they had three against Buffalo on Nov. 29 and three more Sunday. The Raiders are the NFL’s best team on third down, converting 50% of their chances, which would suggest more success than being just one game over .500. Of course, they’re also allowing their opponents to convert on 50% of third downs.

When they kick: Michael Badgley interrupted what has been an uneven season personally by kicking a game-winning 43-yard field goal as time expired Sunday. Badgley has missed seven field-goal and three extra-point attempts this season. He is tied with Tennessee’s Stephen Gostkowski and Minnesota’s Dan Bailey for the most misses in the NFL. Las Vegas’ Daniel Carlson is 26 for 28 on field-goal tries and 38 for 39 on extra points.

Jeff Miller’s prediction: The Raiders have won three in a row against the Chargers, who haven’t won an AFC West game in nearly two years. Neither streak will end in this meeting.

RAIDERS 26, CHARGERS 21