The Las Vegas Raiders take on the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1 action on Sunday, and here, we dive into some key numbers to keep an eye on.
It’s NFL Week 1 and fans were already treated to seeing last year’s Super Bowl champions getting thrashed on national television this past Thursday. What does that mean? Well, it helps to hold true to the adage that everyone is a contender during opening week. With that being said, there are some interesting stats and historical numbers worth monitoring tomorrow in the Las Vegas Raiders’ opening game.
The Raiders are coming off a disappointing playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl participants, the Cincinnati Bengals. Since then, the Raiders have experienced several changes. from the front office and coaching staff, down to its roster. However, it’s still worth looking back at some tidbits of previous games going into this pivotal AFC West matchup.
Especially one as heated as this Raiders-Chargers rivalry.
Raiders vs. Chargers: Numbers to keep an eye on in Week 1
100 Rushing Yards
The Raiders were notoriously slow starters under Jon Gruden. They were efficient, especially with Derek Carr under center, but their run game, for example, struggled to get going in the early part of last season. The offensive line play from 2020 to 2021 fell off significantly. The reason I bring up 100 rushing yards is that the Raiders’ offense struggled to get their run game going under Gruden.
In the team’s first two games last season, the Raiders failed to crack the century mark, gaining 82 yards against the Baltimore Ravens and 52 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the other hand, the passing offense took off from the outset as Carr posted 740 yards through the air. Josh McDaniels will look to establish the run early and often; Las Vegas fans can expect a heavy dose of Josh Jacobs early and often.
On the flip side, a concern surrounding the Raiders will be if they can stop the Chargers’ rushing attack. Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, and Sony Michel form a dangerous trio that Patrick Graham will need to slow down. Up the middle, the Raiders have Johnathan Hankins, Bilal Nichols, and Andrew Billings to hold down the interior. Is that enough?
The Raiders run defense was reliable late down the stretch in 2021. For example, from Week 15 onward, the Silver and Black only surrendered 100 yards rushing or more just once. Not even the Bengals were able to manage that in their playoff bout. Can Graham’s unit hold up in Los Angeles?
The turnover battle will be pivotal against a team such as the Chargers that can score in the blink of an eye. As far as the memorable Week 18 matchup, Las Vegas forced two turnovers against their hated rival. In a close game such as that one and the one, they’ll likely have on Sunday, a number such as that can be game-changing.
On the subject of turnovers and Gruden, the Raiders, for the most part, protected the ball early on in 2021. From their opening game against the Ravens up until Week 7, prior to the bye week, the Raiders never had more than one turnover in a game. Say what you will about Gruden, but ball security was a priority.
Finally, the "holdout" debacle in Las Vegas over. On Saturday, Raiders Darren Waller agreed to a three-year, $51m extension. Was he holding out, though?
By comparison, McDaniels’ Patriots offense struggled mightily in that department during that same stretch. In fact, the McDaniels’ offense had 11 turnovers in the first seven weeks of 2021. Yes, he had a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones, but sloppy play like that won’t get you far in the stacked AFC West. Will the new-look Vegas offense keep mistakes to a minimum? Well, if they can’t, it’s going to be a long day.