It all comes down to this. Despite a tumultuous season full of tragedy and scandal, the Las Vegas Raiders are just one win away from securing their first postseason berth since 2016. Standing in their way is one of their greatest rivals, the media darling Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers are so good, in fact, that they allowed themselves to have an identical record to the “lowly” Raiders just so they could break the collective hearts of the Silver and Black faithful in a primetime season finale.
Or something like that…
Rivalry snipes aside, the Raiders are overmatched on paper. This will not be a backup quarterback or a COVID-ravaged roster ripe for the traditional pillaging. If interim head coach Rich Bisaccia decides to ignore the scoreboard at any point on Sunday night, it might come crashing down on him. Slow starts will be punished, and any errors (especially from a certain eighth-year quarterback) will be scrutinized without prejudice.
Let’s not go as far as saying they need to “win this game for John Madden.” But the last thing Madden tolerated on the sidelines, in the broadcast booth, or overseeing the production of a football simulation was a lack of heart and effort. The Raiders have what it takes to pull off what many would consider an upset. And here are a few ways they can make that happen.
Bryan Edwards Eclipses 100 Yards Receiving
The preseason hype train attached to second-year receiver Bryan Edwards never truly left the station. Despite being lauded with praise from everyone in Raiders Land, the former Gamecock has only mustered 30 receptions for 508 yards. All while watching targets we assumed he would dominate, instead finding their way into the box score of the hardest working Raider of this writer’s lifetime, Zay “Please No Deep Shots” Jones. All of that will be forgotten, though, if Edwards lights up Allegiant Stadium this Sunday.
While the Chargers are not lacking in the secondary (ranking just two spots behind the Raiders in passing yards allowed this season), they are not impregnable. The Chargers’ attention will rightfully be heaped on Hunter Renfrow. Also, a returning Darren Waller will likely be shadowed by the weapon that is Derwin James. So, Edwards should capitalize on this opportunity to shine today.
Josh Jacobs, Peyton Barber, and Jalen Richard EAT
Okay, this isn’t so much a bold prediction as it is a positive affirmation. The Raiders’ defense is going to have a rough time stopping a Chargers offense that is at full strength and more than acclimated to the game plan of former Los Angeles and current Las Vegas defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. The best way to slow down a team with this level of firepower is to limit their chances of scoring.
In the first matchup, the Raiders were at an all-time low point. This was especially true from a ground attack standpoint. Josh Jacobs and company have recently helped to rekindle interest in running the ball. They’ve also done this against far more formidable opponents than Los Angeles. The Chargers have allowed the third most rushing yards in football this season, for an average of 136.7 per game.
If Las Vegas can make this game ugly and punch those San Diego Orphan Annie’s in their powder blue mouths, their chances of winning increase exponentially. It also opens the door for the final bold prediction.
Trevon Moehrig Seals The Win With a Pick 6
Oh, how sweet this would be. Rookie safety Trevon Moehrig has had a quality rookie season. However, it has included its fair share of bumps in the road. The TCU product’s ball skills were a huge reason Raider Nation was excited. So far, Moehrig has only accounted for one interception. Oh, and a memorable drop against the Washington Football Team that would have closed the door on a big win in Week 13. He was also part of an epic fail of a turnover attempt that led to a gifted touchdown for the Colts in Week 17 after colliding with cornerback Casey Hayward.
Everyone loves a redemption moment. With the Raiders nursing a three-point lead in the fourth and the Chargers surging up the field looking for more than just a tie, Moehrig will sucker an overeager Justin Herbert into a large mistake. You can see the excitement now as Moehrig marches into the endzone, engulfed in a sea of Silver and Black.
Like I said, positive affirmations.
*Top Photo: Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun