The AFC West battle between the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers could be the highest scoring game of Week 5.
Jon Gruden’s offense finally finished and exploded for 45 points in a victory against the Cleveland Browns last week.
Entering Thursday, the Raiders (1-3) ranked second in the NFL in offensive total yards with 1,767, trailing the Los Angeles Rams’ 1,874.
The Chargers, who are known for slow starts, made it through September with a 2-2 record after beating the San Francisco 49ers in Week 4.
Both the Raiders’ and Chargers’ defenses allow 30 points per game. Sunday’s winner at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, will keep pace in the division with the 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs.
Here are five things you need to know about the Raiders’ Week 5 opponent:
1. Old reliable
Age hasn’t slowed Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, now in his 15th NFL season at 36. The passing yards aren’t as high this season, but Rivers is playing efficient and securing the ball. Rivers is completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,156 yards, 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He’s tied for second best in the league in touchdown passes, only trailing Patrick Mahomes’ 14. With so many weapons, Rivers has the Chargers offense in sync and averaging 27.8 points per game.
2. Underrated back
A big reason why Rivers isn’t forcing the ball down the field is the presence of workhorse running back Melvin Gordon, who can run between the tackles and contribute as a pass-catcher. Gordon’s name often doesn’t come up when mentioning the best running backs in the league. The stats say he belongs in the conversation. Gordon ranks fifth in yards from scrimmage with 475. He’s seventh in the league in rushing yards with 276. Gordon isn’t alone in the backfield. Austin Ekeler has been productive as a change-of-pace running back. The Raiders’ defense struggles against the run, allowing 139.3 yards per game.
3. Where’s Keenan?
Pro Bowl wideout Keenan Allen has posted wearisome numbers to start the season. Allen had a breakthrough year in 2017 with 102 receptions and 1,393 receiving yards. He only has 24 catches for 282 yards and one touchdown in 2018. But with defenses focused on stopping Allen, that has allowed wide receivers Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams to break free often. The Raiders’ cornerbacks will have their hands full, but they gained Daryl Worley, who returned this week from a four-game suspension.
4. Flying rookie
The Chargers might have gotten the steal of the 2018 draft after safety Derwin James fell to them at No. 17 overall. James already has made history. He became the first defensive back in NFL history to record three sacks in the first four games to start a career. Last week, James was a one-man wrecking crew with seven total tackles, three quarterback hits, two passes defensed and one sack.
5. Missing Bosa
The Chargers’ defense has struggled without star pass-rusher Joey Bosa, who isn’t returning any time soon with a foot injury. Los Angeles is giving up 30.0 points per game, 28th in the league. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the worst average with 34.8 points per game. Chargers edge rusher Melvin Ingram and the rest of the front seven will need to step up against a hot Raiders offense.