Chargers vs. Raiders matchups: L.A. aims to give Justin Herbert lots of time to throw

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws against the Denver Broncos on Nov. 1, 2020.
Rookie quarterback Justin Herbert passed for three touchdowns last Sunday at Denver, but the Chargers let a 21-point lead slip away and lost 31-30 to the Broncos.
(Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Los Angeles Chargers (2-5) and the Las Vegas Raiders (4-3) match up heading into their game Sunday at 1:05 p.m. at SoFi Stadium.

When Chargers have the ball: Las Vegas has only seven sacks, a total that is tied for 30th in a league of 32 teams. That would seem to be promising for rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and an offensive line still trying to get healthy and jell. The Chargers faced a similarly inviting situation entering Week 3 against Carolina and then watched the Panthers sack Herbert on the third play and finish with eight quarterback hits. The Raiders also are 25th against the pass, giving up 260.7 yards per game. Herbert is averaging 303.3 yards, which is fourth in the NFL. He already has three 300-yard passing games and four three-touchdown games. Two weeks ago, Las Vegas gave up 369 yards and four touchdowns to Tom Brady. Herbert isn’t Brady, but he has been very good. As well as Herbert has played, the offense rediscovered its running game last weekend with a season-best 210 yards. Justin Jackson and Troymaine Pope combined for 156 of those yards. Pope finished the game in concussion protocol, his status for Sunday still in doubt. The Chargers would love to get rookie Josh Kelley back on track. After opening the season impressively, and then fumbling twice, Kelley has averaged only 2.5 yards in 39 carries over the last four games.

Sam Farmer makes his picks and predictions for Week 9 of the 2020 NFL season.


When Raiders have the ball: Derek Carr has completed 71% of his attempts and thrown for 14 touchdowns with only two interceptions. So the veteran quarterback has been notably efficient. But he’s coming off a game in which he completed only 15 passes and totaled 111 yards. The Raiders beat Cleveland 16-6 with defense and a ground attack that produced 209 yards. Josh Jacobs carried a whopping 31 times for a season-high 129 yards. “People think [coach] Jon [Gruden] is a passing guru,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “But Jon will run the football 50 times if you let him.” Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley talked about how much more explosive the Raiders’ offense seems to be this season. That’s no minor observation given how many big, crushing plays the Chargers have given up. Vegas rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs III has caught just 10 passes, but his 4.27 speed in the 40-yard dash is enough to put any cornerback on high alert. Las Vegas also features one of the NFL’s most productive tight ends in Darren Waller, who leads the team with 45 receptions.

After blowing leads of 16 points or more four times, the Chargers want to prove what they’re capable of early — and late — Sunday against the Raiders.

When they kick: After a couple shaky games, the Chargers’ Michael Badgley came back last weekend to convert on all three of his field-goal attempts — from 52, 47 and 33 yards. Unfortunately for the Chargers, Badgley’s right foot provided all their points over the final 20 minutes. In his third season with the Raiders, Daniel Carlson is 16 of 18 on field goals and 19 of 20 on extra points. He is three of three on attempts of 50-plus yards, with a long of 54.

Jeff Miller’s prediction: The Chargers opened as three-point favorites and remained slight favorites throughout the week. Given what’s happened the last four games, it’s difficult to believe they’re favored against anyone. All of which means this prediction probably will be entirely wrong.