Las Vegas Raiders vs. Los Angeles Chargers: Matchups, prediction for Monday Night Football battle for division lead

The Los Angeles Chargers vs. Las Vegas Raiders is an incredibly enticing matchup, with the winner claiming the top spot in the AFC West.

The Los Angeles Chargers look every bit as good as we dreamed they would going into their battle with the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. There are no shortages of storylines in Chargers vs. Raiders, but we’ll focus on each positional matchup to conclude who holds the upper hand.

Los Angeles Chargers offense vs. Las Vegas Raiders defense

Despite appearing like one of the truly talented teams in the NFL, the Chargers are not statistically performing to their reputation. They aren’t running the ball well, despite having an offensive line that’s pass protecting at an incredibly high level.

Meanwhile, the Raiders’ defense has been propelled by their decent pressure rates despite blitzing 4x less than the league-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Maxx Crosby, Yannick Ngakoue, and Carl Nassib have made things difficult for offensive tackles so far in 2021.

Somehow this team ranks 11th in defensive efficiency after ranking 28th in 2020. The secondary that couldn’t cover their passed-out buddy with a blanket last year is excelling this season.

Justin Herbert vs. Raiders defense

Justin Herbert is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the NFL. He possesses an absolute howitzer of a right arm, and his athleticism allows him to create out of structure and make throws that don’t make sense.

His throw down the sideline against the Dallas Cowboys in Cover 2 comes to mind. Defensive Player of the Month Trevon Diggs slowed up just slightly, and Herbert threw a heat-seeking missile into the honey hole between Diggs and the safety.

Herbert is still improving as a quarterback on a down-to-down basis, but he makes plays outside of the norm so frequently that it’s impossible not to feel good about him week in and week out.

Advantage: Chargers

Chargers weapons vs. Raiders defensive backs

On the surface, this looks like it should be a win for the Chargers. However, with the way the Raiders’ secondary has performed so far, this projection becomes more difficult.

Keenan Allen is arguably the best route runner in football. Mike Williams has blossomed with Herbert throwing him the football, and the team no longer using him as simply a 50/50 ball receiver. However, Jalen Guyton isn’t necessarily an appetizing third option on offense, although Jared Cook can still contribute.

Conversely, Trayvon Mullen has played well opposite of Casey Hayward Jr., and rookie Nate Hobbs has come out of nowhere like Randy Orton, RKOing the NFL with a great showing early on. The fifth-round pick has received more snaps in each game so far in 2021.

Still, offenses will get the slight edge over a competitive defense simply because it’s so hard to defend in the NFL.

Advantage: Chargers

Chargers offensive line vs. Raiders front seven

This is the area where a tie goes to the defense. Rashawn Slater has been nothing short of exquisite as a rookie left tackle. However, fielding Storm Norton on the opposite side — who will see a healthy dose of Crosby — could be cause for concern.

By that, I mean that’s a particular matchup that could alter the outcome of this game on Monday night. Things could get that ugly.

Crosby has been incredible so far in 2021, even if he hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 1. If the Chargers don’t send significant help to Norton on Monday, that number could rise by a Week 1 Chandler Jones amount.

Advantage: Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers defense vs. Las Vegas Raiders offense

The Chargers’ defense ranks 22nd in efficiency so far in 2021, but that’s not necessarily a good barometer of their ability. Sure, the Washington Football Team doesn’t have much to worry about on offense, but their other two opponents were the Chiefs and Cowboys.

It won’t get much easier in Week 4. The Raiders have scored 33, 26, and 31 points, respectively, in their first three games. All of those came against defenses that were expected not to be complete dumpster fires.

What I’m saying is, Jon Gruden has this offense cooking. By that, I mean Derek Carr and the pass catchers are carrying a horrific run game across the finish line.

Derek Carr vs. Chargers defense

It’s quite possible no quarterback has played better football than Carr has in 2021. It’s hard to argue anybody comes close if we discount his horrific first half against the Ravens.

Nobody is better with the game on the line than Carr. Those are the facts. Carr is clutch. He’s produced more expected points than anybody in football during the final four minutes of games. This season, he’s done it every single week.

Derwin James may be the best safety in the league when healthy. Asante Samuel Jr. looks great as a rookie, but Michael Davis has struggled on the other side.

Advantage: Raiders

Raiders weapons vs. Chargers defensive backs

It seems Henry Ruggs III has gotten his feet underneath him in Year 2. Hunter Renfrow might be the best pure slot in the entire NFL, and Bryan Edwards and Carr have become clutch buddies late in games.

Then, there’s Darren Waller. He’s arguably the biggest cheat code in the NFL. Waller is a top-tier receiver despite being 6-foot-6, 255 pounds. He’s a monster. And even though he’s only gotten 14 targets in the past two games after receiving 19 in Week 1, he’s always ready to explode.

All I want is to see Waller and James go at it for about 65 snaps. Just give me that one thing from this game, and the rest is absolute gravy.

Advantage: Raiders

Raiders offensive line vs. Chargers front seven

All good things must come to an end. The Raiders’ offensive line was the biggest reason I believed they’d be a disappointing team in 2021. Somehow it hasn’t negatively affected Carr enough to lose them a game.

Kolton Miller has been good, but the rest of the line has struggled mightily as a unit. They can’t run the ball, and the videos of pure defensive domination continue to clog the Twitter timeline.

The Chargers don’t have much on the defensive line aside from Joey Bosa. That makes things a bit easier for the Raiders — they can focus on one player instead of a unit. It’s why we shouldn’t be surprised if Bosa has a disappointing year statistically.

Still, I can’t help but feel this is a stoppable force meeting a moveable object. In that respect, the tie goes to the defense.

Advantage: Chargers

Betting line and game prediction

The Chargers are 3.5-point favorites against the Raiders on Monday Night Football. If we look just at the advantages from each team, this appears to be a very closely contested game.

If the Raiders and Chargers seasons are a light into what we can expect Monday, this will be an incredibly tightly contested game.

Nevertheless, I think the Raiders’ pass rush has the bigger advantage against the Chargers’ offensive line. For that reason, and because of Carr’s unbelievable late-game heroics, I expect the Raiders to not only cover but to win the game outright.

Prediction: Raiders 28, Chargers 27


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