I’m not a big believer of calling games this early in the season a “must win” but when the Raiders host the Chargers on Sunday, it’s about as close to a must win game as you can get at this point of the year.
The Raiders have lost three straight and fallen to 2-3 on the year and after they play the Chargers on Sunday, they will have to take on the undefeated Chiefs on a short week. Because of that, the Raiders really need to get a win against Los Angeles and head into their game with the Chiefs playing better than they have been.
And if they want to do that, here are three keys to getting it done.
Don’t let Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa Control the Game
There isn’t much about this Chargers team that scares me or that should scare the Raiders. One of the few things that is cause for concern is their tandem of pass rushers. Both Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are dominant players who have the ability to single handedly impact a game. Together, they can demolish an offensive game plan.
To do this, the Raiders are going to need to give their bookends of Donald Penn and Marshall Newhouse some help. Whether it’s sending chips their way or even busting out the sixth offensive lineman like they did with so much success last year, the Raiders need to find a way to slow these two pass rushers down. If they don’t it will be another week where the passing game struggles.
Don’t let the Chargers Get Right in Run Defense
We talk a lot about “get right” games. Opportunities for a team to correct problems with the team. This week, while the Raiders will look to get right against the Chargers as a whole, the Chargers will be looking at an opportunity to get right against a struggling Raiders run game. Currently, the Chargers are the last place run defense in the NFL and they will be looking to improve on that against a Raiders run game that sits at 22nd in the league.
Last weekend, the Raiders took on the worst passing defense in the league and rather than take advantage of that opportunity, they allowed the Baltimore Ravens to get right against them. They came into Oakland with a terrible passing game and left it with a very good performance through the air that they can now build off of. The Raiders cannot let that happen against the Chargers. They need to be the ones getting the run game right on offense, not the ones who allow the Chargers to get their run defense right.
Play With Confidence
The team we have watched over the last three weeks has been a shell of the team we saw on the field in 2016. Last year, the Raiders were a team who looked like they believed they would win every game. They took the field every week expecting to win and in the end, that’s exactly what happened far more often than not. But over these last three weeks, this team has looked more like they expected to lose than expected to win.