The Oakland Raiders head out on the road with a chance to do something they haven't done since 2002. Head coach Jack Del Rio and his team have the opportunity to earn their first playoff berth since 2002 with a win against the Chargers in San Diego on Sunday.
Though the Kansas City Chiefs currently hold control of the AFC West, but the Raiders will guarantee at least a playoff berth on Sunday with a win.
They'll be facing a Chargers team that has been decimated by injuries. Coach Mike McCoy most recently lost running back Melvin Gordon last week when he left in the first quarter with a hip injury. It's unknown if Gordon will return this week, but it seems unlikely. Not having Gordon on the field will be a big blow to the Chargers as he leads the team with 997 yards and all of the Chargers' 10 rushing touchdowns.
Speedy back Danny Woodhead is already out for the season, leaving just rookie Kenneth Farrow and veteran Ronnie Hillman in the backfield for the Chargers. Farrow stepped in last week and carried the ball 16 times for 55 yards.
Quarterback Philip Rivers has had to endure another season without one of his top targets in Keenan Allen, who is once again out for the season. Without him, Rivers has still had a solid year and leads the division in passing yards (3,589), passing touchdowns (27) and is on pace for his fourth-consecutive 4,000-yard season.
With Allen out, second-year wide receiver Tyrell Williams has emerged as the Chargers' leading receiver with 905 yards on 55 catches after he only had two receptions last year. Williams provides a rare combination of size and speed that can be difficult for defensive backs to cover, as the Raiders found out in their October matchup when Williams hauled in five receptions for 117 yards and one touchdown.
San Diego's duo of tight ends also played a big role in that last matchup between these two teams. The Raiders have struggled against the position all year, and the Chargers have one of the league's best tandems in veteran Antonio Gates and rookie Hunter Henry. The two combined for seven receptions, 104 yards and two touchdowns in the first matchup. The Raiders will need to shut both of the tight ends down in an effort to slow down the Chargers passing attack.
Another way to slow down the Chargers passing attack is to get to Rivers and apply the pressure. Star defensive end Khalil Mack is currently riding an eight-game streak with a sack and will look to continue that on Sunday. The NFL hasn't had a nine-game streak since Dwight Freeney did it in 2003.
Quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders offense struggled to get anything going in last week's big game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite not being able to tally up the wins, the Chargers defense has played well.
Running back Latavius Murray and the rushing attack will face a Chargers defense that is allowing just 91.9 yards per game, sixth best in the NFL. Getting the running game going is necessary to help give Carr more time by setting the up the play-action.
The Raiders offensive line has been great all season long and needs to be to keep Carr off his back and upright. They'll have to keep a close eye on rookie defensive end Joey Bosa who leads the team with 6.5 sacks in just nine games played.
Second-year wide receiver Amari Cooper had a big game against the Chargers in their first contest, hauling in six receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown. Cooper and the passing game have the opportunity for another big game, going against a Chargers defense that is allowing over 260 passing yards a game, 25th in the NFL.
The Raiders will return for their final home game of the season on Christmas Eve, taking on the Indianapolis Colts. Even if they lock up a playoff bid this week, they'll still have the opportunity to battle for the AFC West divisional title in the remaining games.