When the undefeated Las Vegas Raiders battle the Los Angeles Chargers in the Week 4 edition of Monday Night Football, the latter can make a massive statement by nabbing consecutive wins in a tough AFC West. After beating the Chiefs in Kansas City last week, you could argue that the Chargers would be 3-0 if not for some bonehead mistakes in their 20-17 loss to Dallas. The funny thing about that Week 2 loss to the Cowboys is that Dallas is usually the team losing those close games with silly mishaps as the Chargers had in that game.
Monday night’s game also features two of the NFL’s leading passers in Derek Carr (1st) and Justin Herbert (5th). Herbert, in only his second year, is looking like a future top-five quarterback already. Winning Rookie of the Year honors only raised expectations for Herbert coming into 2021. So far this season, Herbert looks ready to meet and exceed those expectations.
I expect Raiders-Chargers to be a close, high-scoring game since neither team has shown much of a running game. Both teams rank in the lower third of the league in total rush yards and yards per game. So, I would say we’re in for an exciting game on MNF. ESPN must be jumping for joy having this game on the schedule, especially since MNF tends to get more blowouts and boring games than Sunday night games.
Coming into the season, the Chargers were picked by many as a dark-horse favorite to challenge the Chiefs within the division. I picked them to make some noise and steal a game from KC — I had no idea it would happen in their first meeting of the year. But hey, I’ll take it. Now they’ve got to keep that going against the Raiders and really stake their claim within the division.
Defensively, the Chargers have fared well against the pass, giving up just 605 yards in three games, the seventh-lowest total in the league. Being able to get pressure on passers and stop the pass is a winning formula. It’s too bad the same cannot be said for the Chargers against the run. They rank last in that category league-wide. If the Chargers intend to make a run at the postseason, this aspect of their defense will need to improve. I know we’re in a passing league now, but some teams will exploit this weakness.
Herbert will need to match Carr on Monday night for the Chargers to get the win. The game will be on his shoulders, as will every other game this season. A win for the Chargers puts them in a great position within the division. Should they win and Denver suffers a loss to Baltimore, there would be a three-way tie atop the AFC West at 3-1.
As good as Herbet is, the Chargers still have room for improvement on both sides of the ball. More balance on offense will be a must if they aspire to be more than wildcard hopefuls at some point. Herbert is one of the better young QB’s in the NFL, but like anyone else, he needs help to win. Once Herbert gets a consistent run game behind him, he’ll be that much better and even more dangerous for the defensive coordinator’s game-planning against him.