Raiders Week 9 Preview: QB Justin Herbert presents tough challenge

The Las Vegas Raiders won a tough, cold-weather game in Cleveland to improve to 4-3. Now it’s time for them to focus on the Los Angeles Chargers. Let’s take a look at the Silver and Black’s upcoming divisional matchup. What have the ‘Bolts’ done well to this point? What have they struggled with and how will that affect them in Week 9?

The Chargers defense will miss a few playmakers

Defensive end Joey Bosa has not lost a step since signing his big contract this offseason. He leads the Chargers in sacks and pressures. Nevertheless, he was declared ineligible after sustaining a collision in Week 8 and joining the concussion protocol. Meanwhile, the young Uchenna Nwosu is on pace to have the best season of his career. He has registered three and a half sacks and 13 pressures so far.

Linebacker Kenneth Murray has been as good as advertised. The rookie has had an immediate impact on his first seven games. He’s currently second in tackles and has displayed competence. We might see more of Nwosu and Isaac Rochell on Sunday with Bosa not cleared to go. Rochell has only seen north of 30 percent of the team’s defensive snaps since the season began, but he has been reasonably productive.

The Raiders had better take rookie quarterback Justin Herbert seriously

Offensively, it looks like the ‘Bolts’ have landed a very good quarterback in Justin Herbert. Watching a lot of Herbert, he may not look very talented, but he is supremely comfortable in the pocket. Furthermore, he has displayed the spirit of a gunslinger – something that was very apparent against the Denver Broncos in Week 7.

Herbert threw three touchdown passes that were 10 yards or longer and two interceptions in that range (one of which wasn’t his fault, the other was a late throw which was definitely his fault). Coming into Week 7, the Chargers had trouble running the ball and relied heavily on Herbert’s arm. This changed in Week 7 and the Chargers put 210 rushing yards on a good Broncos defense.

The game against the Broncos may be an outlier, but teams could be starting to respect the rookie signal-caller. That in turn will give this Chargers offense lighter boxes to run against. This is something to watch this week as the Raiders enter the contest with the worst defense against the run in the league.

Related: Raiders Slowly Moving Past ‘Middle of the Pack’ Rankings

Why are the Chargers 2-5?

If the Chargers are so good, look so tough – why are they 2-5? You earn the record you have and the Chargers are no different. They have lost no less than four contests this season in heartbreaking fashion and it isn’t by chance. They had Denver dead to rights – in fact, up by two touchdowns with 3:14 left in the third quarter, quarterback Drew Lock threw an interception the Chargers returned to the 24-yard line.

For most teams, who are up by two scores already, the playcalling should be easy, right? Three safe runs in a row, if you don’t convert you kick, you get yards, you take time off. Not the ‘Bolts’ though, they ran twice and threw out of an empty set which ended in an interception.

We all should be averse to conservative football. However, the Chargers gave life to a young Denver team that took full advantage and stole the game away. This is not unique and has been happening all year. The Raiders should win in ‘L.A.’ this weekend, but I could turn into a high-flying shootout. If that’s the case, the Chargers’ consistent poor decision making and inconsistent personnel will be their downfall.

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Top Image: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

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