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Chargers
Las Vegas Raiders

Chargers vs Raiders: 3 SNF Matchups To Watch

  • Justin Melo
  • January 7, 2022
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Sunday night's primetime divisional showdown between the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders qualifies as the game of the weekend in what's an unprecedented Week 18. These two storied foes are largely expected to do battle for the AFC's seventh and final playoff spot at kickoff. These two franchises enter Sunday with a slim chance of both being able to qualify for the postseason with a rare tie, paired with a Jacksonville Jaguars victory over the Indianapolis Colts, who have inexplicably struggled at TIAA Bank Field over the years. The Chargers and Raiders will both know the result of that contest before taking the field for their playoff-deciding game. For the sake of honoring competition, forecasting a tie may be exciting, but is also impossible to envision coming to fruition. It doesn't get more exciting than witnessing a postseason berth get decided in the final week of the regular season. The Chargers and Raiders have both experienced a rollercoaster of a campaign and will have a chance to extend their seasons beyond Sunday's pivotal showing. The Chargers last qualified for the playoffs in 2018, with the Raiders' latest postseason visit last occurring in 2016. Both teams will be hungry to end their playoff droughts. We've identified three player-versus-player matchups which will help determine the outcome of Sunday night's playoff-implications game.

JUSTIN HERBERT VS. DEREK CARR

No, these two players won't directly do battle with one another on Sunday, but they arguably represent the two players that will ultimately determine the outcome of what's essentially a play-in game. The moment couldn't be any larger for Carr, who technically championed the Raiders to their last playoff berth in 2016, but unfortunately suffered a season-ending injury in the penultimate game of the season. As a result, Carr has never actually appeared in a postseason contest throughout his largely successful eight-year career. Sunday certainly qualifies as the most important showing of Carr's career. Carr will be competing against an excellent signal-caller in his own right. The drafting of Herbert has quickly catapulted the Chargers to playoff contenders in just year two of what promises to be an astounding career. As excellent as Herbert was as a rookie in 2020, the former Oregon Duck has taken the desired step forward as a sophomore. Herbert has improved in a number of metrics from a year ago, including his completion percentage (67.27% vs. 66.55%), yards per attempt (7.6 vs. 7.3), and touchdowns (35 vs 31). He's an ascending talent that possesses the capabilities to become the best quarterback in the NFL. The Chargers missed the postseason in 2020, and Herbert will be looking to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in his young career. It may all come down to the quarterbacks on Sunday night.

JOEY BOSA VS. KOLTON MILLER/BRANDON PARKER

One of the most feared and productive pass rushers in the NFL, Joey Bosa will relish his opportunity to help catapult his Chargers to a postseason berth. Bosa has recorded an impressive 9.5 sacks in 15 appearances and will undeniably be hungry to clinch the fourth double-digit sack season of his career with a single quarterback takedown of Carr. Bosa consistently plays through injury and remains one of the truly elite quarterback hunters in the league. The Raiders have struggled in pass protection all throughout 2021, as Carr has been sacked a haunting 37 times this season. It sets up extremely favorably for Bosa, who should line up across from both left tackle Kolton Miller and right tackle Brandon Parker on occasion. Miller is undoubtedly Vegas' best pass protector, so Bosa may spend most of his time attacking the pocket from the left side, which would allow him to take advantage of Vegas' right tackle. Rookie first-round selection Alex Leatherwood initially began the season in that spot but was eventually moved inside to guard and replaced by Parker after experiencing some struggles with foot speed on the outside. Parker has fared marginally better than Leatherwood did but has still given up seven sacks while earning a pass protection grade of just 52, via Pro Football Focus. Bosa should receive every opportunity to make Carr uncomfortable throughout this one.

KEENAN ALLEN VS. NATE HOBBS

Rich Bisaccia and the Raiders have seemingly declined to punish Nate Hobbs for his involvement in an extremely disappointing DUI arrest earlier this week, making him available for Sunday. A rookie fifth-round selection out of Illinois, the 23-year-old Hobbs has served as a revelation for Vegas' secondary while quickly making their starting nickel position his own. Hobbs will be thrust into the limelight in the largest of spots. The majority of his responsibilities will center around slowing down Los Angeles' superstar receiver Keenan Allen, who has consistently run the majority of his routes from the slot position throughout his illustrious career. The 29-year-old Allen has shown absolutely no signs of slowing down in his ninth professional season. The former California Golden Bear is one of the most consistent performers in all of football and is seemingly getting better with age. Allen has experienced an excellent campaign while thriving in Los Angeles' pass-happy offense. Allen has recorded 100 receptions for 1,086 yards and six touchdowns thus far. Allen will set his sights on achieving a new personal-best receptions record with five catches on Sunday. Hobbs has impressed throughout his rookie campaign but faces a massive challenge in the form of Allen.

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Justin Melo