As Week 1 finally approaches, Josh McDaniels prepares for his first game as the new Las Vegas Raiders head coach. Alas, he still has much to prove after a failed coaching stint with the Denver Broncos many years ago. So, despite all the Super Bowls won in New England, McDaniels is not short on doubters.
On the other side of the field, Sunday will be Brandon Staley. He is the second-year head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. Staley is the prodigal son of modern football, especially on defense. Divisive for his stance on fourth-down play calling, analytics often support his decisions. As such, he has quickly earned consideration as one of the league’s best coaches.
On Sunday these two will renew acquaintances after seeing each other in Week 8 of 2021. In that game, the offensive-minded McDaniels and the Patriots bested the defensive acumen of Staley and Los Angeles. When they meet for the first time as rivals, what could it look like? Raiders vs. Chargers might be about these two promising head coaches more than anything else.
Raiders vs. Chargers: Reviewing the last matchup
As stated, the Patriots would beat the Chargers 27-24 in the last meeting between McDaniels and Staley. Aided by a pair of Justin Herbert interceptions, the Patriots’ offense dominated the time of possession by almost eleven minutes.
The biggest reason for this was the staggering 39 rushing attempts McDaniels made against the porous Chargers’ run defense. When facing an elite quarterback like Herbert, it is imperative to keep the ball out of his hands if possible. As the Raiders saw in Week 18 of last season, Herbert can completely take over the game.
The time of possession and 142 rushing yards helped mask a relatively pedestrian performance from Mac Jones, as he had just eighteen completions on 35 attempts for 217 yards. The Raiders will hope Derek Carr fares better in Week 1.
How the Silver and Black can win on Sunday…
As Las Vegas prepares for a huge divisional matchup this Sunday, things are much different between these two teams. On the opposite sideline, the Chargers made a massive addition when they traded for All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack. One of the best players in football, he will pair with fellow pass rush extraordinaire Joey Bosa to form a lethal duo.
With this in mind, the Raiders may move towards a more run-heavy approach just like McDaniels used last time he faced Staley’s defense. Despite a questionable offensive line, the run game powered by Josh Jacobs and rookie Zamir White could neutralize the threat that Mack and Bosa present on every snap.
Of course, the Raiders made some moves of their own when they acquired the NFL’s best wide receiver, Davante Adams. With no shortage of defensive weapons in Los Angeles, Las Vegas might be in luck with the news that star cornerback J.C. Jackson may miss Week 1. Regardless, with Adams and Hunter Renfrow, the Raiders have the personnel to dominate in the quick passing game, regardless of who is covering them.
While Raider Nation is certainly dreaming of the explosive offense that was promised when the Raiders acquired Adams, this may not be the game for it. On the road against a star-studded defense with a loaded pass-rushing group, McDaniels will have his work cut out for him. Regardless, Raiders fans can sleep well at night knowing this is not the first time McDaniels has seen Staley and, currently, he is 1-0.
*Top Photo: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times