Chargers coach Anthony Lynn got his first NFL win last week and now he seeks his first divisional win versus the Oakland Raiders. Lynn can lean on the experience of his coordinators to help him in this game as former Jags head coach Gus Bradley leading the defense and he has former Titans and Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt leading the offense.
Whisenhunt and Lynn lead an offense that is ranked No. 11 in total offense. Oakland gives up the tenth most yards on defense. Thus, the Silver and Black will need to be coached up again this week.
Whisenhunt is in his third year as offensive coordinator for the Chargers. This is his second stint with the organization. He was also offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh from 2004-07. Whisenhunt has been head coach of the Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals. He began his NFL coaching career as a tight ends coach with the Baltimore Ravens in 1997. He was the tight ends coach for the Browns, Jets and Steelers too. He was also the special teams and tight end coach in at Vanderbilt from 1995-96. Whisenhunt played quarterback and tight end for Georgia Tech in the mid 80s’ before playing TE in the NFL with the Falcons, Jets and Redskins.
Los Angeles’ offensive line was bad last year but this season they have only allowed six sacks. It makes sense that the Chargers also have No. 6 passing offense for yards per game due to Philip Rivers’ added time in the pocket. They Bolts are No. 1 in passes over 20 yards too. Expect L.A. to take plenty of deep shots against the Raiders secondary. Oakland’s safeties have been a bright spot this year but they will get beat deep and take bad angles at times.
A lot of the passing game’s success in Los Angeles is attributed to the Chargers getting Keenan Allen back healthy. He is their leading receiver with 401 receiving yards. Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin have chipped in too with both nearly accumulating 200 receiving yards. This receiver group is very versatile, especially when you factor in tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry. Whisenhunt played the tight end position and the Raiders let tight ends put up big numbers (even though they’ve improved this year) so the TEs should have another heavy role in the game plan.
Gates is known for tearing up the Raiders over the years. He and Henry have three TD receptions on the year. They will both be utilized in the red zone. This is especially true since the Raiders surrender the 13 most passing yards and Oakland has not gotten a single interception this year.
The Chargers are minus two in turnover differential. Rivers is known to take chances in the passing game so this should be the game that the Raiders get their first interception. Expect the defensive backs to have opportunities to make plays on the ball. It will be up to Oakland’s secondary to make the plays because the Bolts receivers will make big gains as they have shown all season.
Also, the Chargers are last in run blocking according to Football Outsider’s adjusted run yards. Melvin Gordon has 122 receiving yards so he’ll be a Rivers’ safety blanket again this week. However, Gordon is averaging less than 4 yards per carry this season after nearly breaking 1,000 yards in 13 games last season.
Hence, do not expect the Chargers to abandon the run. Head coach Anthony Lynn played running back at Texas Tech before playing with the Giants and Broncos in the 90s’. Whisenhunt established physical running games as the Cardinals and Titans head coach as well as during his time as offensive coordinator with the Steelers and Chargers. The Bolts will try to get their running game sparked versus Oakland’s defense. Both Lynn and Whisenhunt have experience using zone and power run schemes so Oakland can expect both styles this week.
This is actually a matchup that the Raiders defensive line can win. They have the fresh bodies and quick steps to beat the Chargers off the ball. However, they’ve got to play discipline. Los Angeles will try to mix it up with play actions and misdirection that will test Oakland’s front seven. Again, the Raiders cannot let Week Six be the game where the Chargers get their running game started.
Thus, the Silver and Black need to do their best to take advantage of opportunities for turnovers. They will struggle to create pressure unless one of their defensive tackles can finally step up. If they can make Rivers uncomfortable in the pocket they can force him into mistakes and find ways to win.
Ultimately, Oakland needs to stay the course. As we have come to know, this team gives up big plays and the explosive Chargers offense may take advantage. Still, the Raiders have to stay motivated to make plays and create turnovers. If they can keep their physically imposing presence they should easily win no matter what Los Angeles’ offense does.