Here are five things to watch for the Oakland Raiders as they try to snap a three-game losing streak at home against the Los Angeles Chargers:
Run the ball: If the Raiders’ running game isn’t going to get on track in this game, we don’t know when. The Chargers have the NFL’s worst run defense. The Chargers allow 161 yards on the ground a game. That is pathetic, but the Raiders’ running game hasn’t been good during their three-game losing streak. Oakland did break the 100-yard rushing mark against the Ravens on Sunday, but it didn’t matter. The Raiders need to feed Marshawn Lynch and Jalen Richard all game against the Chargers. With quarterback Derek Carr still sore from a back injury that kept him out of the Baltimore game, this would be a smart move. Take what the opponents offer — the Chargers give opposing teams acres of yardage on the ground.
Get interceptions: The Raiders are one of three teams in the league without an interception through five games. However, the Chargers may have the remedy — his name is Philip Rivers. He has been an interception machine. He has thrown 26 interceptions since the start of last season. This is sort of like running the ball against the Chargers. If interceptions aren’t going to happen in this game, when will they?
Start quickly: I know, I go to this well a lot, but when it applies, it applies. The Chargers have been outscored by 36 points in the first quarter this season. Oakland must take advantage. Plus, the Raiders need to start fast for their own good. Left tackle Donald Penn told NBC Bay Area the team was too “uptight” and “jittery.” That’s a tad alarming, but nothing an early lead at home can’t solve.
Protect Derek Carr: This key, of course, is as important as any. Carr said this week he is still sore but is hopeful to play. It should be noted he practiced on a limited basis both Wednesday and Thursday. Carr is going to be ginger. The problem: The best skill the Chargers offer is their pass rush, featuring Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. They might be the best pass-rush duo in the league. The Chargers are tied for third in the NFL in sacks. We all know Oakland’s offensive line hasn’t been as stout as it was last season. It has allowed 12 sacks in five games compared to 18 sacks last season. This line must protect Carr in this game.
Throw deep: When the opportunity arises, Carr needs to unleash. The Chargers are beatable downfield. Nothing would get receiver Amari Cooper (who has four catches for 23 yards in the past three games) back on track like a bomb of a touchdown. Oakland must push the deep-pass envelope in this game.