With a win, the Chargers will have a share of first place in the AFC West (if Denver also loses to Baltimore) and could take the top spot in our AFC West power rankings. It is also hugely important that the Bolts win as it will continue the momentum into tough back-to-back games against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
The Raiders are looking to build on a strong start to move to 4-0 for the first time since 2002. Several different Raiders have stood out thus far to help the team start with a 3-0 record, one of which being former Charger, Casey Hayward Jr.
Hayward followed Gus Bradley to Las Vegas after the LA Chargers cut him in the offseason. This certainly will be a revenge game for Hayward, who has seemingly reinvented himself in the black and silver. Per Pro Football Focus, Hayward has allowed a 42.4 passer rating when targeted. He has been targeted nine times in three games, allowing three receptions for 26 yards with two pass break-ups and no touchdowns.
Those are very solid numbers that seem to be signaling a bounce-back season in 2021. Unfortunately for Hayward, the Bolts are going to kill that narrative.
Why the LA Chargers will expose Casey Hayward Jr. on Monday:
First of all, let's look at who Hayward and the Las Vegas Raiders have played. While they have had some tough teams in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Miami, there is one common denominator with all three of those teams: they are not going to challenge a defense vertically.
Baltimore gets its yardage on the ground and while Marquise Brown is fast, the Ravens are far from being a team that will beat someone vertically and they are the best vertical team the Raiders have played this year.
Pittsburgh has really talented skill position players but also has a quarterback who should have retired before the season and cannot throw the football deep.
Miami is a really well-coached team that has a good defense but was already shaky at the quarterback position to start the year and that was made even worse by the fact that Jacoby Brissett had to start in Week 3.
The Raiders have not played a single team that is going to challenge them vertically in the passing game. The LA Chargers are absolutely going to challenge them vertically. Justin Herbert is averaging over 300 passing yards a game and is coming off a game with four touchdowns.
As good as Hayward has been, there is a massive step-up no matter who he covers in this one. He is not going to play in the slot which means that even if he does not play on Keenan Allen he is going to have to cover Mike Williams, who has been a top-five receiver in the league in terms of production through three weeks.
It was not that long ago that Hayward was getting absolutely exposed by Denzel Mims of all people. Just imagine what Keenan Allen or Mike Williams will do to him with Justin Herbert slinging the ball his way.
And let's not forget the Gus Bradley component of this. Bradley is notorious for not adjusting his defense and this is a defense that Justin Herbert and co. know like the back of their hand. If there is any offense in the league that knows the holes of this defense, it is the Chargers.
Casey Hayward Jr. is an LA Chargers legend and that will never change. But on Monday, he is the enemy and he will look much more like the 2020 version of himself, if not worse.