After a victory over the New York Jets (5-10), the Los Angeles Chargers (8-7) will be taking on the Oakland Raiders (6-9) in a last-ditch attempt to sneak into the playoffs. While the Kansas City Chiefs (9-6) have already clinched the AFC West, the Chargers can grab the sixth seed with a win and a Tennessee Titans (8-7) loss. The Raiders have been eliminated from playoff contention and will only be playing for pride. Still, it is a divisional matchup, so it may be a close game. Here are the ways in which the Chargers can help ensure victory in this “do or die” game.
Week 17 Los Angeles Chargers Keys to Victory
Do Not Let Marshawn Lynch Take Control
The Chargers have a strong pass rush and a pretty good secondary, but their run defense is actually the worst-ranked in the league in terms of yardage. They will be facing off against Marshawn Lynch, who is still wearing down defenses even in his old age. The last time the Chargers and Raiders played each other this did not factor in because Oakland was not giving Lynch that many carries at the time and he only had 63 yards.
But down the stretch this season Lynch has been getting more carries and he has been showing what he is still capable of as a result. The Chargers absolutely cannot let him take control. They can do this in multiple ways—by getting the defense off the field quick early on since he is unlikely to break off a big run early—and by having the offense eat up the clock when they are on the field to ensure that the defense is at full strength when it comes time to tackle Lynch. Now, as for actually tackling him… they still have to actually do that themselves and avoid taking bad tackling angles. But this is still a big key for the Chargers and they need to do what they can to help themselves out on that front.
Attack the Secondary
Despite the loss of one of Philip Rivers‘ main targets in Hunter Henry, he still managed to do pretty well against the Jets defense. Tyrell Williams made some plays, and Antonio Gates had a huge day. Perhaps Gates has more in the tank than we thought and they were just giving him a rest due to his age. While it may have seemed wise to lean more on the running game heading into last week’s game, just the opposite may be true now.
Melvin Gordon is dealing with an ankle sprain. So far it does not appear he will miss the game on Sunday, but there is the question of whether he will be one hundred percent. Such a situation would offer all the more reason for the Chargers to rely more on Rivers in the season finale. If Gates is still able to be a threat, that helps keep things open for Keenan Allen, Williams, and the other receivers. They will also probably need to actually score more than they did against the Jets—fourteen points may not cut it.
Force Sacks and Turnovers
This is a key week in and week out for the Chargers. And it has been part of how they have even managed to get this far. The Raiders had five turnovers on Monday against the Philadelphia Eagles, and that was a big reason they lost. This may seem like a no-brainer at this point, especially given how easily it seems to come for the Chargers with their deadly pass-rush duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and their secondary headed by Casey Hayward.
Nevertheless, it should still be emphasized. Bosa and Ingram need to keep doing what they have been doing, and the secondary needs to keep up its better play as well. Regardless of what Lynch does, if the Chargers take away the passing game for the Raiders, their chances of winning will greatly improve.
The Chargers are hoping that this will not be their final game this season. Unfortunately, it will not be entirely up to them. They will also be watching for the Titans to lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars (10-5), as that will be necessary for them to remain alive. If they do sneak into the playoffs, it would be an incredible comeback after an 0-4 start.
Regardless of what happens with the Titans, the Chargers still need to pull out a win over the Raiders to have any shot. It may not be an easy win due to it being a divisional matchup. But the Chargers already defeated them once and are very capable of doing it again. Doing the things listed above should help them get that done.