What to watch for in Chargers-Raiders on 'TNF'

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  • By Grant Gordon NFL.com
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It is a rivalry born in the AFL that has endured decades, different leagues, cities and stadiums.

On Thursday, the Chargers and Raiders will battle it out one last time in the confines of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. With the rivalry set for another chapter when the Raiders venture to Las Vegas in 2020, a new chapter will begin.

But in the here and now, the teams are vying for possible postseason positioning.

Still going strong, Philip Rivers will lead the Los Angeles Chargers (4-5) into enemy territory to face Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders (4-4) in an AFC West Thursday Night Football showdown beginning at 8:20 ET on FOX, the NFL Network and Amazon Prime.

There are wrinkles to the rivalry this time around, as Chargers linebacker Thomas Davis has been one of the most underrated free-agent pickups.

Tyrell Williams has taken on the role as No. 1 receiver for the Raiders and will face his former Bolts teammates for the first time.

With Jared Cook gone, Raiders tight end Darren Waller has taken the starting spot and flourished, putting up big numbers and earning a contract extension.

Raiders rookies such as Josh Jacobs and Hunter Renfrow have become huge contributors for the Oakland offense, while Clelin Ferrell is yet to find his way in aiding an ailing pass rush.

Storylines abound as the rivals clash on 'TNF.'

Here's four things to watch for:

Philip Rivers keeps on getting it done, and so too is Derek Carr


For six seasons now, as the Chargers and Raiders have clashed, it's been the same two signal-callers leading them into battle.

Since 2006, Philip Rivers has been slinging it and going strong for the Chargers. That's the year in which he took over the Bolts' starting reins and his first start came at Oakland -- and it was a convincing win. He's been overlooked a lot, perhaps taken for granted. But at 37-years-young, he enters Thursday night leading the NFL with 2,609 passing yards and aiming to turn around a once-slumping Bolts squad and bring it back to the contender it appeared to be at the season's beginning.

Winners of two in a row after three consecutive losses, the Chargers haven't relied on Rivers -- he had just 201 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Bears and had 294 yards and no scores against the Packers. But his presence and leadership no doubt pilot the squad and against a Raiders pass defense ranked dead last in the league, expect the youngster to have a a big day.

Rivers' longtime counterpart Derek Carr is doing his usual, completing a ridiculous percentage of his passes, holding onto the ball, getting the job done and getting largely overlooked in the process.

Carr's completing 71.2 percent of his passes, has 13 touchdowns to just four interceptions, has thrown for multiple TDs in three consecutive outings and sports an excellent 105.1 QB rating.

The Chargers have won four in a row in the rivalry, all of them with Rivers at the helm. Fanfare or not, Carr's obviously looking to end that streak.

The older/overshadowed Bosa is excelling, too


As "little" bro Nick is leading the undefeated 49ers' defensive charge in NoCal, Joey Bosa is having himself a phenomenal season, as well.

To this point, Joey is the only player in the league calling ownership to 45-plus tackles and eight-plus sacks. His 8.5 sacks are tied for fourth in the league, his 11 tackles for a loss are tied for first, his 17 QB hits are deadlocked for third and his 46 tackles are second on the team to only the ageless Thomas Davis (67 tackles).

The former third overall pick is producing and becoming one of the top players off the edge in the league. He'll likely have his work cut out for him against a solid Raiders offensive line, but injuries could slow Oakland in the trenches and speed up Bosa and friends.

Josh Jacobs is running strong in a terrific rookie campaign


Josh Jacobs is full-speed ahead churning out an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign and all the while producing at a level that's making you forget he's only in his first season.

At 740 yards entering Thursday, Jacobs is seventh in the NFL in rushing yards and second in the AFC behind Leonard Fournette's 831.

From the outset of the season, Jacobs has been impressive, but he's hit another gear as of late. Over the last four games, the Alabama product has surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark three times and scored four times.

Through eight games, Jacobs leads all rookie backs in yards, carries (152) and rushing scores (six) with his yards having already set a new Raiders franchise standard for a rookie back, eclipsing Hall of Famer Marcus Allen's 697 in a nine-game strike-shortened 1982.

While the Chargers have a staunch passing defense (fifth in the NFL), their rushing defense (20th) has struggled at times. Thus, Jacobs' spectacular freshman year might well continue to run on high.

Is Melvin Gordon back to being Melvin Gordon?


An ill-fated holdout kept Melvin Gordon from the field over the initial four weeks of the season.

Upon his return, Gordon hardly looked like himself in his first four games. On Sunday against the Packers, though, the extraordinary version of Gordon was finally on display for the first time in 2019.

Both of the Chargers' touchdowns in the 26-11 win came via Gordon runs as he tallied 109 scrimmage yards.

Also of note is that Gordon had 14 total touchdowns and 1,325 scrimmage yards last season -- in which he played only 12 games. Should he stay healthy, that's how many he'd play this year, too.

It's another sign of the Chargers rounding into the form that so many predicted of them before the campaign commenced.

Gordon's never truly had a huge outing against the Raiders, however, with his last showing in Week 10 of 2018 seeing him match a career-best against Oakland with 93 yards on the ground (165 from scrimmage).

With Gordon at his best, one could surmise the Chargers are at their best. That storyline continues to play out on Thursday night.

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