Are you ready for some football? The Raiders (5-8) and Chargers (5-8) definitely aren’t. Both are dealing with a rash of injuries, including at quarterback, edge-rusher, wide receiver and running back. Here’s what to watch for in the kickoff of Week 15.
WHEN THE CHARGERS ARE ON OFFENSE
Quarterback Easton Stick thrown into starting role: With franchise quarterback Justin Herbert (finger) out for the remainder of the regular season, Stick becomes the most recent backup to get a start in 2023.
He played collegiately for North Dakota State and was drafted in the fifth round (166th overall) of the 2019 NFL Draft. Prior to his 13-of-24 performance in relief of Herbert in Week 14 against the Broncos, Stick had thrown one NFL pass.
Thin on offense: Los Angeles’ top offensive weapon, wide receiver Keenan Allen (heel), did not practice Tuesday, calling into question his availability for Week 15. His absence would make Stick’s job much more challenging.
Allen leads the NFL in receptions (108) and is fourth in receiving yards (1,243). The team is already without starting wide receiver Mike Williams (torn ACL), who was lost for the season in Week 3.
Rookie first-round wideout Quentin Johnston had a lackluster start to his career but is coming off his best two-game stretch as a pro (eight receptions, 143 yards).
Edge-rusher Tyree Wilson: The Los Angeles offense was predictably vanilla against the Broncos following Herbert’s injury. Per Pro Football Focus, Stick only had two deep pass attempts and one pass off of play action.
That usually isn’t a winning formula, but it might be the Chargers’ only path on Thursday if Stick isn’t better under pressure. According to Pro Football Focus, he was 3-of-9 for 17 yards (1.9 yards per attempt) when pressured in Week 14.
That is where Wilson comes into the picture. Maxx Crosby (knee) is the team’s best pass-rusher but did not participate in practice Tuesday. His status is in doubt, giving the No. 7 overall pick of the 2023 NFL Draft an opportunity on a national stage to have a big game.
PFF credited Wilson with a season-high four pressures in Week 14. He needs to be a game-wrecker against the Chargers for the Raiders to feel good about spending a top-10 pick on him.
Running back Austin Ekeler: The Chargers rushing offense simply must be better than it has been this season for Los Angeles to have a chance. It ranks 26th in rushing yards (96 yards per game), and Ekeler is averaging a career-low 3.7 yards per attempt.
Las Vegas (5-8) is susceptible against the run, ranking 25th in the league (127.4 yards per game). It also is 30th in expected points added per rush attempt, ahead of only the Jets and Giants.
WHEN THE RAIDERS ARE ON OFFENSE
Wide receiver Davante Adams: The Raiders must involve Adams early and often. Per RotoWire, Adams leads the league in first-quarter targets (42) and receptions (31). His three first-quarter receiving touchdowns trail only Miami’s Tyreek Hill and Seattle’s DK Metcalf (four).
It will be interesting to see how the Chargers (5-8) defend Adams. In Week 14 against Denver, safeties Alohi Gilman and Derwin James defended Broncos No. 1 wideout Jerry Jeudy on five of his six targets.
Asante Samuel Jr. should get the assignment often against Adams. Still, the Raiders will likely be able to scheme Adams into a mismatch such as the Vikings did in Week 3, when All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson burned linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. for a 52-yard touchdown.