Make Philip Rivers uncomfortable in the pocket.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is a lot of things, but being mobile is not one of them. Sure, he can move around a bit in the pocket and has no problem with heaving aerial strikes downfield with a bunch of guys in his face. However, Oakland has to do its best to keep him uncomfortable in the pocket to have a legitimate shot at the upset.
Fortunately, the Raiders’ strength defensively lies in the pass rush. It has really come on of late ever since John Pagano took over this defense. We know that defensive end Khalil Mack is one of the best in the business at rushing the quarterback, but his high football IQ has helped elevate the play of some of his teammates.
The guy that has most notably taken the leap forward in 2017 has been Oakland’s Walter Payton Man of the Year honoree in outside linebacker Bruce Irvin. He pass-rushing ability has become multifaceted playing off Mack this year. Look for Irvin to be a total menace for Rivers on Sunday.
Other guys to keep an eye on in the Oakland pass rush are defensive linemen Denico Autry and Jihad Ward. Autry has been the third key pass rusher for the Raiders in the second half. Ward is coming off a solid game against his hometown Philadelphia Eagles last week in primetime. The Raiders have the horses in the stable to make Rivers’ New Year’s Eve not so happy. Can they get it done?