3. Brandon Staley and co. will out-coach the Raiders
Despite some bits of criticism here and there throughout the course of the NFL's first 17-game regular season, Brandon Staley has done an excellent job during his year as head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Staley's complex defensive scheme which he implemented has been through its ups and downs, however has been successful when his personnel, particularly the secondary, is healthy and not on the COVID/Reserve list. His aggressive nature when it comes to fourth-down decision making, the analytical based coaching, the good relationships with players, and his knowledge of offense through a quarterback's perspective (which he acquired through playing QB at Dayton), have led to the early positive signs around the Chargers current identity and culture. The fruits of Staley's work will begin to show themselves and make their mark over the coming years.
The Raiders, led by interim head coach Rich Bisaccia, offensive coordinator Greg Olson, and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, have done well to keep the Raiders alive through the waves of their crazy season. However, as a staff, these three coaches lack the schematic capabilities to take down Brandon Staley and his team in a win-and-in game. Bisaccia has been nothing more than a special teams coordinator throughout most of his career (including a spell with the Chargers), and lacks the tactical ability desired in a head coach. Olson is an experienced OC, however was thrust into playcalling duties after Jon Gruden 'left', a role he hasn't occupied since 2016. And Gus Bradley... well Chargers fans know all too well what he brings to the table, and that's nothing more than a basic, non-adaptable, low-disguise cover-3 system.
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Chargers held the Raiders to only 14 points and 213 yards. In the first half, Staley and his defense pitched a shutout and held the Raiders to 20 net yards, the lowest amount EVER by a Jon Gruden-led team in a singular half. That seems pretty good to me. Las Vegas will obviously be missing Gruden from that first game, but will also be down Henry Ruggs who was their only consistent threat that night, racking up 60 yards of receiving. It's unrealistic to expect that type of performance again from the defense, the stakes are much higher this time around and this game is on the road, but Staley has already orchestrated a plan to out scheme the Raiders offense, and I'm confident he'll do it again.
On the offensive side of the ball, I expect that Chargers to methodically pick apart Gus Bradley's defense, with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi relying heavily on the run game to wear out the Raiders. Las Vegas is weak on the interior of the defensive line and we know Gus Bradley is hesitant in his ways, meaning limited run blitzes are coming. Austin Ekeler had a career-high 117 rushing yards on 15 carries against the Raiders earlier this year, and with the recent emergence of Justin Jackson as RB2, I expect the Chargers to run the ball early and often on Sunday. With the Raiders' lack of secondary depth only made worse by Nate Hobbs' DUI arrest on Monday, Herbert and his targets could have a field day against the Raiders' DBs, who largely consist of ex-Chargers such as Roderic Teamer, Brandon Facyson and Casey Hayward. The Chargers will have had plenty of experience against Bradley's cover-3 system given the amount of practice time they've had against it in the past, and I expect them to have loads of success against it again on Sunday night.
Staley's capabilities as a coach, along with the staff he has brought with him are on the come-up. They are just going to get better and better as time moves forward. The schematical ability, the personnel they have at their disposal, and the makeup of the Raiders creates a favourable matchup which I think they will take advantage of.
I believe in Brandon Staley, and you should too. The Chargers are postseason bound.