The Raiders travel to Los Angeles to face the Chargers at 1:25 p.m. Sunday for the regular-season finale. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown:
Derek Carr took the bulk of the blame for the Raiders’ latest collapse on offense. Carr threw two interceptions against the Eagles, including the one that set up the game-winning field goal for Philadelphia. Philip Rivers has cooled off since his hot four-game winning streak to turn the Chargers’ season around.
Melvin Gordon is dealing with a swollen ankle, but the Chargers running back vowed to play Sunday. If Gordon isn’t at full strength, Austin Ekeler and Branden Oliver will get the bulk of the carries. Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard had big outings last week against the Eagles but each had costly fumbles.
Besides Amari Cooper’s 63-yard touchdown reception, the Raiders receivers had a dreadful performance during Week 16. Michael Crabtree disappeared by failing to catch any of his three targets. The Chargers are led by Pro Bowl wideout Keenan Allen, who the NFL’sis fourth in the league in receiving yards with 1,260.
Raiders rookie David Sharpe stepped up at left tackle in Donald Penn’s absence by not allowing a sack versus the Eagles’ vaunted defensive line. Raiders center Rodney Hudson hasn’t missed a game since dealing with kidney stones two games ago. Left tackle Russell Okung anchors the Chargers’ offensive line.
The Chargers have arguably the best pass-rushing duo in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The two have combined for 21.5 sacks this season. The Raiders’ defensive line led by Khalil Mack has played its best football since John Pagano took over as defensive coordinator.
NaVorro Bowman controls the middle of the field for the Raiders, while Bruce Irvin attacks the quarterback. The linebacker duo has complemented each other well since Bowman arrived from San Francisco. Kyle Emanuel, Hayes Pullard and Denzel Perryman start at linebacker for the Chargers.
Raiders cornerback Sean Smith has played at a high level the past month, shutting down opposing team’s top wideouts. Chargers’ Casey Hayward, who was named to the Pro Bowl, is one of the league’s best corners.
The Eagles refused to kick in Cordarrelle Patterson’s direction during kickoffs. Patterson’s reputation off taking returns to the end zone has hurt him this season with teams not kicking his way. Nick Rose is the latest kicker for the Chargers, who have lost multiple games this season because of missed field goals.
The field will be painted with the Chargers’ colors and logo but they won’t have the crowd behind them. Raiders fans are expected to take over the 27,000-seat StubHub Center on Sunday. Los Angeles still has strong ties to the Raiders since the team left in 1994.
Micah Roberts (Sportsline.com): Raiders 17-16. Throw the records out for this classic AFL meeting and expect a close game which makes taking +7 very attractive despite the Chargers “must win situation” to make the playoffs. While the Chargers are scoreboard watching events in Baltimore and Tennessee, the Raiders will attempt to salvage some badge of honor to close out the season while ending a three game losing streak. The Chargers struggled last week to put away a team with a green QB at New York and the reality is that the Chargers are overrated having covered the number just once in their last four. They’ve now gone 1-7 ATS in their last eight December games. The Under has been working well for both teams: Oakland has stayed Under in its last six and the Chargers Under in their last five. Both also have an AFC West Under-thing going. Oakland Under 7-1 in last eight vs. AFC West and the Chargers 9-1 to the Under in their last 10 vs. AFC West. Raiders get the cover, and quite possibly the win.