The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers continue their storied rivalry on Sunday at SoFi Stadium as Week 1 of the NFL season gets underway for the majority of the league.
The last time these two teams met was during the last week of the 2021 regular season with a playoff spot on the line. The thriller of a game ended in overtime as K Daniel Carlson’s field goal punched a playoff ticket for the Raiders and forced the Chargers to watch the postseason from home.
Chargers QB Justin Herbert emphasized he is ready for this rematch against the Raiders.
“I know personally, I’ve been thinking about this one for the past six or seven months, however long it’s been,” Herbert said. “I know everyone else has as well.”
Both teams reloaded in the offseason and are full of stars. We have a thriller ahead of us, but before then, here are three key matchups to watch during Sunday’s slugfest.
Raiders Secondary vs. Chargers Weapons
The Raiders secondary changed a lot during the offseason, as key contributors from last year, such as CBs Casey Hayward, Trayvon Mullen Jr. and Brandon Facyson, are no longer a part of the Raiders secondary. CB Nate Hobbs and S Tre’von Moehrig are players the Raiders hope take the next step to stardom, as they showed flashes during their rookie campaigns and during training camp.
Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels brought in CB Rock Ya-Sin, Anthony Averett and S Duron Harmon to help contribute to the Raiders passing defense, which will be needed heavily this Sunday. The Chargers return WRs Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and added TE Gerald Everett to Herbert’s disposal.
In 2o21, Herbert averaged almost 4o more passing yards in wins compared to losses and had a 1.6-1.5 TD to INT ratio in losses compared to 2.8-0.3 in wins. If the Raiders secondary can make Herbert uncomfortable, then they should like their chances.
Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham said the revamped cornerback room has to win, as that is how they will be judging success.
“We have to go out there and compete,” Graham said. “We get better at practice, we keep working on our techniques and fundamentals and then it shows up on Sunday and we play well, that’s what success is judged on.”
Raiders OTs vs. Chargers EDGEs
The Raiders offensive line has been the hottest topic this training camp, as outside of LT Kolton Miller and C Andre James, there has been a lot of questions. The Chargers already had one of the top EDGE defenders in all of football in Joey Bosa, then during the offseason, they traded for former Raider DPOY Khalil Mack.
Miller should be able to hold his own against either Bosa or Mack, the biggest question is if RT Jermaine Eluemunor can hold down the right side of the line.
Eluemunor was one of the most consistent offensive linemen for the Raiders during the preseason, but facing Mack or Bosa is a different challenge.
Eluemunor said practicing against EDGEs Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones has helped him prepare for the game against the Chargers.
“It’s nice going against Maxx and Chandler, because they kind of prepare you, they’re two of the best in the league as well,” Eluemunor said. “You’re getting a great look to prepare for a game like this.”
If Miller and Eluemnor can contain those Charger EDGEs, then QB Derek Carr should have a field day with the weapons he has.
Darren Waller vs. Derwin James
Not many teams have “unicorns” at their positions such as Raiders TE Darren Waller and Chargers S Derwin James. Waller helps open up the offense with his ability to stretch the field with his speed and size, and James is the key component for the Chargers defense. It’s best vs. best.
This might be the biggest match up of the game, as both players mean so much to the scheme that their coaches present. Whoever gets the best of this matchup will probably determine the outcome of the game.
Waller, who signed a massive contract extension Saturday, will be the key for the Raiders during this game. Him attracting a lot of James’ attention can open up the middle of the field for the Raiders offense.
There is a reason why Waller has been Carr’s favorite target ever since he joined the team. Even with WRs Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow, Waller will see a lot of targets his way.
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