The Raiders didn’t have much time to celebrate a dramatic victory over Detroit in their return from a five-game road trip. They immediately moved on to a Thursday night game against the Los Angeles Chargers, played on a quick turnaround that players and coaches hate.
It’s another unwelcome scheduling quirk for the Raiders, but they haven’t used any of them to excuse a poor performance. They seem determined to overcome such obstacles and show toughness and resilience that has become this season’s signature trait.
They’re a bit banged up at important spots, but the Raiders will try to improve their playoff standing against an AFC West rival with plenty of firepower and similar aspirations.
Here are five Raiders to watch heading into the final (scheduled) primetime game at Oakland Coliseum:
DE Maxx Crosby
The Raiders are a little light at defensive end with Arden Key recovering from foot surgery and Josh Mauro out with a groin issue. The fourth-round draft pick was playing a ton already but should be a three-down player against an opponent with dynamic backfield talent.
He must help slow Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler in the run game and find a way to impact quarterback Philip Rivers.
The longtime Chargers signal-caller has owned the Raiders in his career but is a pure pocket passer prone to aggressive mistakes. Putting him under duress helps coaxed him into making some that could turn tides.
Crosby is relentless and must stay vigilant going against a Chargers right tackle spot that has been substandard no matter who plays.
LT Kolton Miller
The Raiders left tackle has been excellent this season. He and Richie Incognito have paired well together blocking for the run, and he has deflected pressure as well as any NFL left tackle. He’s bigger, stronger and healthier this season, with increased confidence providing wind at his back.
Miller has parried tough pass rushers before, and must deal with a pair of excellent ones who move around the formation. Joey Bosa is on a tear and Melvin Ingram’s having another solid all-around year playing a number of different positions.
There will be times Miller has one of them straight up, and he must win as he has against other top players coming off the edge. He’s prepared for that challenge and could get some help with Trent Brown apparently healthy and ready to anchor the right tackle spot.
The Raiders need another strong, mistake-free day from their left tackle to stay engaged in what should be a close contest down the stretch.
WR Tyrell Williams
Players always relish playing an old team. Williams admits there will be extra juice in this one after spending his previous four NFL seasons with the Chargers.
Williams’ case of plantar fasciitis is largely behind him, setting the stage for a big performance against defensive backs he practiced against for years.
It was always clear Williams would leave the Chargers in free agency – they couldn’t have paid his open-market freight – but he’ll still want to prove to his old team that he’s a true No. 1 receiver capable of taking control of a game especially if tight end Darren Waller remains a defensive focal point.
Williams has done damage downfield, with Carr well protected and comfortable working the ball downfield. Taking big chunks is possible if Carr has time. If not, Williams needs to be an available intermediate route runner to keep the Raiders on schedule and prolonging drives.
DT Johnathan Hankins
The Raiders don’t want to face a balanced Chargers attack. That one’s dangerous. They need to create long third downs and obvious passing situations to increase the odds of creating stops and takeaways.
That effort starts in the middle with Hankins and the Raiders run defense.
CB Daryl Worley
Worley survived a scare this week, when an MRI showed no tearing in his strained Achilles’ tendon. That makes him a go for Thursday night, an important fact for a struggling Raiders pass defense that made a few key stops Sunday against the Lions.
Worley’s acrobatic, one-handed interception in the end zone was a real highlight, especially after he got beat several times earlier in the first half.
The Raiders need him to be consistently reliable from his outside cornerback spot, where he has played despite talk he could operate some from a safety spot or a rover in the secondary.
This finally might be a game where he plays such a role, with big-bodied tight end Hunter Henry always being a threat inside the numbers. The Raiders have struggled against tight ends and Worley could help there, or he could stick outside and deal with Mike Williams and Kennan Allen when they’re on his side.
Either way, the Raiders need Worley to provide stable, quality coverage to minimize the damage done by the Chargers' potent air attack.