It seems like just yesterday that American football aficionados were waiting for what felt like a lifetime for the 2016 NFL season to begin. Yet, here we are, already through one quarter of the new campaign.
Week 5 features an interesting matchup of two teams going in completely different directions as the 1-3 San Diego Chargers travel north to take on the 3-1 Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
The Chargers head into this game with zero momentum after blowing another game they had a lead in against the New Orleans Saints. This is not the shape San Diego hoped to be in when circling this matchup with their hated rival on the schedule prior to the season.
Meanwhile, the up and coming Raiders are riding high after defeating the Baltimore Ravens in their own building to cement their second straight AFC road win.
So, will Mike McCoy’s bunch right the ship with a huge road win in hostile territory to stay alive in the tough AFC West, or will Jack Del Rio and Co. prove they are no fluke with another win in front of the rowdy O.co Coliseum faithful?
Find out with these five bold predictions.
Philip Rivers Nowhere To Be Found
After a number of disappointing losses in which he’s done everything he could with the cards he’s been dealt this season, it’s fair to assume the San Diego’s struggles could be weighing on veteran QB Philip Rivers.
Even his former Chargers teammate, LaDainian Tomlinson, believes Rivers should be playing for another team at this point in his career.
Let’s be honest: Even before the Chargers lost WR Keenan Allen and RB Danny Woodhead, everyone knew they’re going nowhere fast in 2016. Despite it being an AFC West rivalry game, I’m expecting to see a deflated Philip Rivers in this one.
In Week 4, the Raiders only sacked Joe Flacco twice, but they did record six total QB hits. After a slow start to the new campaign, Oakland’s pass rush has played well of late and will frustrate Philip throughout all four quarters with overwhelming pocket pressure.
A flustered Rivers will likely throw for a touchdown or two and he may even pad his stats in garbage time, but the three turnovers he commits will devastate San Diego and ultimately prove to be too tough to overcome.
Derek Carr Electrifies
Over the summer, many NFL experts opined that Derek Carr would take a huge step forward in his third professional campaign. Carr made them look incredibly wise thus far, throwing for 1,066 yards, nine TDs, and just one INT.
Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio spoke glowingly about Carr’s performance in Oakland’s comeback win against Baltimore to CSN Bay Area on Sunday.
“We have confidence that No. 4 can get it done and leads. He’s very poised making decisions. There was some tough sledding there against a really good defense, and he just continues to play at a high level. He’s really good getting his feet right to make accurate throws.”
“Smart, tough and accurate. That’s what we have in Derek Carr.”
Put simply, San Diego’s pass defense has been abysmal this season. Thus, it’s fair to assume Carr will electrify once again with over 250 yards and three TDs at minimum without committing a single boneheaded turnover.
Raiders Offensive Line Dominates In Trenches
In Week 4 against Baltimore, Oakland’s stout offensive line was brilliant in pass protection once again. Donald Penn and Co. built an impregnable wall around Derek Carr, who wasn’t sacked or even hit on a single occasion.
According to ESPN, the Chargers have tallied a middle of the road nine sacks this season. This unit is simply no match for what is incontrovertibly one of the NFL’s premier offensive lines in Oakland.
Thus, it’s fair to say Carr won’t be spending any time on the ground in utter agony in this one.
Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin Combine For Three Sacks
In Week 4 against the New Orleans Saints, who showcase one of the NFL’s worst defenses and a feeble pass rush, San Diego allowed three sacks and an unfathomable 12 total quarterback hits on Philip Rivers.
Despite making adjustments, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was let down by his offensive line once again.
Mike McCoy discusses adjustments that will be made along the offensive line:https://t.co/eLHXzGe820— San Diego Chargers (@Chargers) September 30, 2016
Against an intimidating front seven led by Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, San Diego doesn’t stand a chance in Week 5. Expect the Raiders to sack Philip Rivers a total of five times, three of which will come from the combination of the aforementioned Mack and Irvin.
Raiders Win By 10 Points At Minimum
According to Pro Football Locks, the swell folks in Las Vegas favor the Raiders by 3.5 points in this one. However, I firmly believe they way are off.
This Chargers team wasn’t built to be a playoff team before the season started, and isn’t deep enough to sustain the injuries they have suffered. While I normally would expect San Diego to show up with an admirable effort in a rivalry game, it’s just not going to happen this time around.
Led by another impressive performance from Derek Carr and their offensive line, the Raiders will be in complete control of this game from start to finish. In the end, Oakland will be 4-1 after cementing a victory by no less than 10 points.
[Featured Image by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images]