The Oakland Raiders will play host to the San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve in the second-to-last game of the year for the Silver and Black — possibly the last game ever in Oakland and definitely the last home game of Charles Woodson’s Hall-of-Fame career. Unlike in recent weeks, when the Raiders were big underdogs, the Raiders are 5.5-point favorites over the worst team in the division.
A win would put the Raiders one win away from finishing the year at 8-8, which would be an impressive feat considering they won seven games combined over the previous two seasons. But before they can think about getting to .500, they need to take care of business against San Diego … here’s how they can get that done:
Trap game alert!!!
The Raiders needed to be at the top of their game to beat Denver (which happened) and Green Bay (not quite). Beating the lowly Chargers, who had their own emotional home sendoff last week, should come as the result of simply doing things correctly. The Chargers are 4-10; part of the Raiders showing they’ve taken a step forward is beating a team like this without a lot of stress. This was no problem the first time these teams faced, as the Raiders jumped to a 30-6 lead and cruised from there.
But that win also came when the Raiders were playing their best football, which hasn’t been the case since they lost to Pittsburgh. But even with how the Raiders have been playing, they should not lose to a team like the Chargers if they just stick to their game and don’t underestimate the boys in baby blue. After all, San Diego is 7-2 at the Coliseum with Philip Rivers starting.
The quarterback must go down and must go down hard
The words of the late Al Davis have not come to fruition in Oakland for a long time. But with how Khalil Mack has been playing lately, the quarterback is going down and going down hard. Mack has 10 sacks over the last four games and leads the league with 15.
But even against San Diego’s porous offensive line, it will be interesting to see if Mack can have a dominant game with Mario Edwards, Jr. not playing. Edwards was injured after the first drive against Green Bay and one could easily tell the difference afterward. Mack had a rather ordinary game and a large part of that was due to the lack of pressure collapsing the pocket inside. That’s what Edwards brings to the table, and why he is such a huge piece of the puzzle for Mack.
Solid play from the youngins
Due to a combination of injuries and a desire to see what the rookies have to offer, the Raiders’ newest additions have played significantly more snaps of late. John Feliciano had his first start against the Packers, and Ben Heeney’s snap count continued to grow into that of a starter. Plus, seventh round pick Dexter McDonald saw extended time at corner for the first time this season.
How these guys do in the future is more important than how they do on Thursday night, as they can boost a rebuilding effort that appears only a few pieces away. But at the same time, since they happen to be playing now, they’ll also play a part in whether the Raiders win or lose tomorrow night. If Feliciano (who played well in the run game last week but struggled in pass protection) and Heeney play well, it will go a long way toward the Raiders getting the result they want for Christmas.