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Preview: Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers - predictions, team news, head to head

Sports Mole previews Sunday's NFL showdown between the San Diego Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

The Las Vegas Raiders will put their undefeated season on the line Monday night when they travel to sunny California to battle the Los Angeles Chargers from SoFi Stadium.

The Raiders are tied for first in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos following a 31-28 overtime win over the Miami Dolphins, while LA handed the Kansas City Chiefs their second defeat, scoring 16 fourth-quarter points to win 30-24, improving to 2-1.

Match preview

LA Chargers celebrate beating the Las Vegas Raiders on December 18, 2020© Reuters

For a third successive week, things went down to the wire for Brandon Staley and his team, who were on the right side of the score versus KC.

The 38-year-old rookie head coach is an inspirational figure, having won his battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was 24 and rising through the professional coaching ranks before landing the top job with the Chargers at the beginning of the year and becoming the first coach to win in his debut for this franchise since Norv Turner in 2007.

Playing in close games is just like another day at the office for this team, who have had 26 encounters decided by one possession since 2019, the most of any NFL team over that stretch.

On the road at Arrowhead last weekend, the defence came up big, intercepting three-time pro-bowler Patrick Mahomes twice, while their offence kept pace with a Chiefs side who rarely have to punt the ball.

Some very aggressive play-calling saw the Bolts put up 30 points for the first time in their last six regular-season affairs dating back to last season when they scored 30 in sin city against Raiders in week 15.

LA showed a lot more discipline while also making more intelligent decisions on offence versus the Chiefs with zero fumbles or interceptions and only 50 yards worth of penalties, a sharp contrast from the previous week when they were flagged 12 times, which took points off the board, while they also threw two interceptions.

Las Vegas Raiders celebrate the field goal made by kicker Daniel Carlson against the Baltimore Ravens on September 14, 2021© Reuters

Speaking of teams going down to the wire and winning tight games, the Las Vegas Raiders have turned a lot of heads with their early season form, going 3-0 for the first time since 2002, which was also the last season where they made it to the Super Bowl.

It remains to be seen whether or not Jon Gruden and his team can maintain their torrid pace throughout the year, but he has to be happy with what his players have produced offensively so far, with 1,413 total yards, the most they have ever up racked in the opening three weeks of a season.

While a 3-0 start is impressive, it has been far from easy for them, winning two of their first three games in overtime, the first squad to do that since the 1995 Chiefs.

In a 17-game schedule as demanding as the NFL can be, it is not so much about how you start but how you finish, and no one should know that better than the Silver and Black, who went 2-0 a year ago but faded out of the playoff race at the tail end of the campaign, dropping three of their last four games.

Unlike the other 3-0 team in their division (the Denver Broncos), you cannot say that Las Vegas have not faced some stiff competition, beating two AFC playoff teams in the first two weeks (the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers) and then edging the Miami Dolphins who just missed out on the postseason last year, with a record of 10-6.

Despite putting up some big numbers through the air in the opening three weeks (1,139 yards passing), their offensive line will have to do a better job of pass protection moving forward, allowing eight sacks already this year.

Los Angeles Chargers form:
  • W
  • L
  • W

Las Vegas Raiders form:
  • W
  • W
  • W

Team News

Oakland Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (28) scores the game-winning touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers during the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum on November 8, 2019© Reuters

Staley cannot seem to stop complimenting his quarterback Justin Herbert, and it is hard to not say enough good things about the sophomore pivot, who has at least three touchdown passes in seven career games, not to mention the fact that he is completing close to 70% of his passes, throwing for 956 yards.

Mike Williams is the first Charger receiver with at least one major score in each of his first three games since 2010 when the legendary Antonio Gates achieved that feat, while Asante Samuel has interceptions in back-to-back games and Austin Ekeler has been quite the find for the LA scouts, tying Danny Woodhead on Sunday for most touchdown receptions (17) by an undrafted running back in the Common Draft era (since 1967).

Wide receiver Keenan Allen left practice on Thursday with an ankle injury, three-time pro-bowl linebacker Joey Bosa has a foot/ankle problem, cornerback Chris Harris also left practice on Thursday with a shoulder issue and defensive lineman Justin Jones has a calf injury.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has been shredding opposing secondaries with 350+ passing yards, and two or more TD throws in four straight games, the longest such streak in club history.

Henry Ruggs and Darren Waller have combined for 461 receiving yards so far, former Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman leads Vegas in tackles with 36 and Solomon Thomas has brought some heat upfront with 2.5 sacks.

Cornerback Nate Hobbs is having problems with his shoulder, running back Josh Jacobs left practice on Thursday with a sore ankle, safety Dallin Leavitt could miss Monday's game with a concussion and defensive end Solomon Thomas is nursing a knee injury.

Head To Head

These AFC rivals are no stranger to one another, having met 122 times in their history, with the Raiders capturing 65 victories and two matchups ending in a tie.

They have faced one another in many critical encounters through the years, including the 1980 AFC championship game where Raiders QB Jim Plunkett out duelled Dan Fouts of the Chargers, winning 34-27 en route to capturing the Super Bowl.

While that was a memorable encounter, there have also been some ugly affairs which included a 7-6 win for the Raiders in a 1998 matchup featuring one of the biggest first-round NFL busts, Ryan Leaf, who went 7 of 18 for 78 yards passing for the Chargers in a game that set a league record for punts with 27 between both teams.

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We say: Los Angeles Chargers 28-31 Las Vegas Raiders

This is a game that could go either way, but the Raiders are the hotter team at the moment, and that momentum could give them an edge.

As good as the Chargers have been in the early going, they have not produced as many big plays as Las Vegas, and they have struggled to slow down the run.

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is sacked by Las Vegas Raiders' Maxx Crosby on October 11, 2020
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