John Woz, Jr.| December 22nd, 2019
The penultimate game of the season matches two AFC West rivals against each other. It’s a farewell stadium game, and it could be the last time Philip Rivers faces the Raiders as a Charger. The 6-8 Oakland Raiders had a good start to the season, but four straight losses have quashed their momentum. Jon Gruden’s team is out to ensure they finish the season on a high.
The focus will turn to Rivers this Sunday, to see if he can improve on last week’s woeful performance. It’s unclear what the future holds for the veteran quarterback. 2020 could be the year when Tom Telesco opts to move on from the long-standing Rivers. We will remember No.17 as a franchise quarterback who didn’t punch his ticket by winning the Super Bowl.
Rivers’ Passing Stats
There is no arguing that Rivers has declined this season. Pro Football Focus graded Rivers at 90.8 at the end of the 2018 regular season, but his grade slumped to 74.5 in 2019. Rivers has thrown nearly as many interceptions this season as touchdown passes.
There are several reasons Rivers has struggled. The Chargers offensive line is brittle, especially at left tackle. The absence of Melvin Gordon meant the Bolts had an unbalanced offense, and his return seemed to upset the rhythm of the offense. The Bolts have not found the offensive balance the led them to the playoffs in 2018.
A change in offensive coordinator did the trick against the Packers, but Shane Steichan has not been able to fix the offensive errors. Multiple fumbles in the Red Zone has cost the Chargers several games. In Week 16 we saw Rivers forcing the offense on third downs by airing the ball downfield to Mike Williams. The Vikings secondary did their job well, by intercepting Rivers three times.
The Raiders have regressed since their Week 11 win against the Bengals. Both the Jets and Chiefs held Oakland to less than ten points in weeks 12 and 13 respectively.
Jon Gruden makes no secret of his admiration for Rivers. Could the Raiders head coach make a bold move for Rivers in the post-season? Stranger things have happened in the NFL. Gruden had this to say about Rivers in the build-up to Sunday’s game.
Rivers is one of the premier quarterbacks in the league and one of the great gameday competitors. One of the all-time trash talkers ever, PG (-rated) trash talk too, that’s a credit to him. But I think he’s great for football, he’s great for the game. We know we’re going to get a great performance from him as the season’s winding down. He remembers a lot about this rivalry, too – Via chargers.com
Chargers Keys to Victory
I stated in my Week 15 preview that Rivers must not turn the football over. Nothing has changed. Anthony Lynn will be apoplectic if he has to start another press conference by stating how many times his team turned the ball over.
Pressuring Derek Carr early in the game is vital. I want to see lots of pressure from Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. In two seasons, Bosa and Ingram have not had any success against Trent Brown, but the Raiders tackle has not recovered from a Pectoral injury. There are no excuses for the Chargers’ pass rush this week.
The Chargers must plan for the Raiders pass rush. Either Trent Scott or Trey Pipkins will start at left tackle.
Chargers Injury Update
Russell Okung is doubtful. Mike Williams participated in Thursday practice.
Raiders Injury Update
Richie Incognito is out. Josh Jacobs is out.
The Chargers can not lose on Sunday, not in the last game before moving to their new home, not against the Raiders and not in what could be Rivers’ last home game. The Chargers have had their problems this season, the Raiders aren’t much better. I expect the Bolts to step it up a gear and win by a touchdown. Rivers needs four touchdowns to reach a career milestone of 400.
Questions and comments?
Follow Us on Twitter @thescorecrow
Follow Us on Reddit at u/TheScorecrow
Follow Us on Facebook at The Scorecrow
Follow Us on Instagram at The Scorecrow
Facebook Group where you can read and post articles at The Scorecrow
Reddit Group where everyone can post without fear of being banned at The Scorecrow
Follow John Woz, Jr. on Twitter @EndZone85
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images