When the schedule is released in April, divisional dates usually take a backseat. Due to familiarity, many will skip to the primetime games versus the big-named opponents. Yet, for the Oakland Raiders, trouble sits in their own division. If you follow the game closely, you can witness bits and pieces becoming patterns. With that said, the Los Angeles Chargers remain the biggest threat to anything the Raiders want to accomplish in 2018.

Denver and KC Flawed

Granted, the Chiefs won the division in 2017. In any other scenario, they would be the odds-on favorite to repeat. However, the Chiefs traded away Alex Smith. Now, they turn to second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. While Mahomes shows promise, Smith helps transform a lackluster Chiefs offense into a potent scoring machine.

Over in Denver, Case Keenum takes the reins. Denver still must figure out what their offensive identity is and scheme for it. While Keenum showed great stride in Minnesota, a stout defense, strong weapons and the worst safety play in recent memory made him a hot commodity. How will he function in Denver? While the Raiders historically struggle versus the Chiefs, splitting these four games should be the minimum.

 

Rivers’ Help

For over a decade, Philip Rivers continues to piece together a Hall of Fame resume. If you look at his numbers, Rivers will stroll into Canton. However, fans, especially opposing ones will remember the multiple collapses and crushing losses.

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Yet, in 2018, the Chargers brass actually put together something that Rivers desperately needs. In the last three season, opponents sacked Rivers 94 times. Enter Mike Pouncey. Pouncey gives that offensive line stability and leadership. Now, Rivers has a dependable center to make the adjustments. If the Raiders are to defeat the Chargers, the defensive tackles will need to get the better of Pouncey.

 

The Pass Rush

Considering the fluidity of the tackle situation for the Raiders, the Chargers’ pass rush looks even scarier. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram present different headache for the Raiders. Bosa brings a varied pass rush and technique that will confound most offensive tackles. On the other hand, you cannot discount his burst to win with pure speed. In contrast, Ingram blurs around the corner with the intention of forced fumbles. Over the last four seasons, Ingram forced eleven fumbles.

Immediately, worry could set in for the Raiders. While Donald Penn could anchor one side, the vacuum known as right tackle, continues to remain empty. For this reason, the quick tutorial for Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker must be successful. With Bosa and Ingram screaming off the edge, Miller must get up to speed rather quickly.

Whether the Raiders succeed in 2018 could hinge on the games versus the Chargers. Los Angeles could serve as the last barrier between the Raiders and a long playoff run.

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