Chargers need to beat the Raiders to make the playoffs
January 6, 2022
After seventeen weeks of the regular season and seven weeks of training camp and preseason games, the Los Angeles Chargers have arrived at that point of the season where it is win or go home. With one week left in the season, the Chargers need to win to make the playoffs. A loss means they are done for the season.
The Chargers reached this point by soundly defeating the Denver Broncos, 34-13, in a Sunday afternoon game played at in Inglewood last weekend. With the loss, the Broncos record fell to 7-9 for the season and they were eliminated from the playoffs.
The win gave the Chargers a 9-7 record for the season and clinched a winning record for rookie head coach Brandon Staley. The win also sets-up a showdown with the Chargers hated arch-rival, the Las Vegas Raiders, who also are 9-7 after beating the Indianapolis Colts on the road, 23-20. The game will be played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Sunday Night, January 9th, the final game of the NFL regular season and will be nationally televised on NBC, with the game starting at 5:20 PM PST.
For the Chargers, if they win, they are in the playoffs. For the Raiders, if they win, they are also in the playoffs. The Raiders can lose and still make the playoffs if the Colts lose to the Jaguars in Jacksonville and the Pittsburgh Steelers lose to the Ravens in Baltimore. If the Chargers and the Raiders end up in a tie and the Colts lose, both the Chargers and the Raiders would be in the playoffs.
It did not have to end up this way for the Chargers. If the Chargers had won against the Houston Texans, they would have clinched a playoff berth with their win over the Broncos. If they had held on to their fourth quarter lead against the Kansas City Chiefs and beaten the Texans, they would have won the AFC West division title and would have a shot at the best record in the AFC and a first-round bye.
Staley, as always, is very positive and moves on quickly to the next week. "Each week has a life of its own in the NFL," said Staley. "That's the way we need to treat things around here. The longer that we're here, the more people will realize that every week is going to feel like this coming week. When you have that type of intensity, that type of focus to treat each week like it has a life of its own, and you pour your full energy into that week, then you can be proud of what goes down."
Staley added, "This week was a similar week, and next week, obviously, there's a lot at stake. We're excited to compete. We're going to have to rest up and learn from this tape; there will be plenty to learn from. Then, we have to keep it moving to the Raiders."
The Chargers took care of business on Sunday, behind the passing of quarterback Justin Herbert and the running and receiving skills of running back Austin Ekeler. Herbert completed 22 of 31 passes for 237 yards and two touchdowns. The two touchdown passes gave Herbert 35 for the season, breaking Philip Rivers regular season record of 34 touchdown passes set in 2008.
Herbert also became the fastest player to reach 800 career completions, doing it in 31 games, and the second-youngest player in league history to get to 65 career touchdown passes. Ekeler rushed for 58 yards on 17 carries and one rushing touchdown, while also adding three receptions for 54 yards. The Chargers ran a balanced offense against the Broncos, running 35 times and passing 31 times.
Charger wide receiver Mike Williams went over 1,000 yards in receiving for the season, snagging three passes for 63 yards, including a terrific 45-yard diving touchdown catch in the endzone from a bullet from Herbert. Wide receiver Keenan Allen had four more receptions to hit the 100-reception mark for the season.
One of his receptions was an eight-yard touchdown pass from Herbert, Allen's sixth touchdown reception of the season. Allen had already gone over 1,000 yards in receiving in a previous game. The Cincinnati Bengals, the Chiefs and the Chargers are the only three teams in the NFL with a pair of receivers with over 1,000 yards in receptions.
The Raiders have not been quite as explosive offensively. The Raiders cut wide receiver Henry Ruggs after he was charged with driving under the influence resulting in the death of a young woman. Ruggs was also charged with reckless driving. On the football side, the Raiders loss their fastest player. They have also been without Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller, who has missed six games this season to knee and back injuries. He may be back this week.
The Raiders have been riding the arm of quarterback Derek Carr, who has thrown for 4,619 yards and the leg of field goal kicker Daniel Carlson, who has made 16 of 17 field goals from forty yards and further. Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow is having a career year for the Raiders, with 99 receptions for 1,025 yards and seven touchdown catches.
The Raiders defense is led by former Charger defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who led the Charger defense from 2017 through the 2020 season. The Raiders have five starters that played with the Chargers last season. Five of the seven Raider defensive coaches were coaching with the Chargers last season. This game will look at times like the 2020 Chargers Defense vs. the 2021 Chargers Defense.
The Chargers really put it on the Raiders earlier this season in a Monday Night game at SoFi Stadium. The Chargers won that game 28-14, a game that was not that close. The Chargers led at halftime 21-0. As Carr said after that loss, "This is a very disappointing loss, tough to take, it hurts. We just didn't play well and didn't get it done. They can blame me, I don't care. It's hard to win in this league, but we'll see the Chargers again."
This will be a typical Charger-Raider battle. These two teams do not like each other and one thing the league has learned about this group of Raiders is that they don't quit. The Raiders have won their last four games by four points or less, three of the four on last minute game winning kicks by Carlson. The Raiders lead the series against the Chargers 65-56-2.
There are two key stats that favor the Chargers in this game. The first is turnover ratio. The Raiders were tied for 30th in turnover ratio with a -11-turnover ratio. The Chargers have a +1-turnover ratio. The second is the Raiders running game. The Raiders average 90.2 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 29th in the NFL.
The Chargers have struggled to stop the run this season, so this should be a good matchup for the Chargers. It was in the first game against the Raiders. But there will be a partisan home Raider crowd for this game and the Raiders have broken the hearts of Chargers fans before, particularly in the 1980 AFC Championship game, which the Raiders won 34-27. This will be a chance for some Charger payback.