2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 18: Raiders 35, Chargers 32 (By Ross Jacobs)
Without a doubt one of the wildest, craziest games I've ever seen and it came with huge playoff implications in prime time as the last regular season game of the year. The NFL couldn't have asked for a better game.
In fact, it was so crazy and the situation so sensitive that Twitter was awash with people wondering if the game was rigged. That's how nuts this was.
With 5:00 minutes left the Chargers trailed 29-14. They had been mostly dominated by the Raiders all game and things looked bleak.
But Justin Herbert would not be denied and put the team on his back as impressively as any QB I've ever seen. His receivers were dog tired, could barely get open, dropping passes left and right. The offense would fail for three straight plays and then on 4th and forever Herbert would throw a laser beam right into a receiver with two guys blanketing him. He did this over and over. I have no idea how many 4th downs the Chargers converted but it was a huge number.
LA tied the game up as time expired and the game went into OT. Keep in mind that at this point, one of the big talking points was that if the game ended in a tie then both teams would make the playoffs and the Steelers would be left out. A few minutes prior Pittsburgh looked safe, but after LAC tied the game suddenly things got a lot more interesting. Would the two teams just play it safe and go for the tie?
It didn't start that way. Both of them came out determined to win and the Raiders were the first to strike with a FG. The Chargers tied it up on another miraculous drive and it was down to the Raiders with the ball just minutes left on the clock.
LV began running the ball every play milking the clock and the Chargers couldn't stop it. It looked like the Raiders might be willing to just run the clock out, but for whatever reason Brandon Staley called a timeout with about 30 seconds left on the clock.
There was no point to the move. He had no time to get the ball back and he had to know the Raiders were going to run the ball again either to set up the field goal or just run the clock out. Staley could have just left it alone and perhaps the Raiders wouldn't have attempted the field goal. But maybe not. We just don't know despite rampant speculation that they would have.
Regardless, after the timeout LV did indeed run the ball and then booted the winning field goal as time expired.
In a massive game, on prime time tv, your playoff hopes on the line, the Chargers played a miserable game and Staley failed in a way that won't soon be forgotten. They lost to an inferior team but one that was tougher and more disciplined. Without Herbert they wouldn't have even had a chance.
But to me out of all the things that the Chargers did wrong, the most egregious was watching their RT get straight up abused by Maxx Crosby literally every snap and they didn't adjust for it until the final minutes of the game.
The entire offense has been a mess to my eyes all year. Yes, they scored a lot of points, but it could have been so much better. I don't like all these stupid short routes just because the OC learned them from Sean Payton. Herbert is the best deep ball thrower in the entire league and you're hamstringing him every time you make him dump it short. I hate that Mike Williams gets mostly ignored until crunch time. I hate that they are so slow to make adjustments to what the defense is doing.
The OC needs to be replaced quite frankly, but they won't do it and I believe it's going to cost this team over the next couple years. Yet another brilliant young QB wasting years because coaches refuse to get their heads out of their asses.
The Chargers are too talented to fail badly in 2022. Herbert won't allow it. But how high is this team going to go? I have multiple questions about their approach and I'll remain skeptical until I see differently.
For the Raiders it's been a storybook season. They started off hot, tanked for a while, lost their head coach to a scandal, lost a WR to a drunk driving incident, lost a corner to an abuse allegation, and somehow rallied behind their interim head coach and slugged their way to 4 straight wins and a playoff berth.
All credit to them for hanging tough and fighting through so much adversity.
Unfortunately, this storybook tale likely ends in the first round of the playoffs. They are a scrappy, hard-fighting team for sure. They give everything they've got every week. But they just are not very talented and it looks like too big of a hill to claim to make a deep playoff run.
They now have to fly out to cold Cincinnati to play a rested and very tough team after spending every last bit of emotional energy trying to close out the Chargers. It's not a great recipe. I am a little weary of writing this team completely off though as they've shown how tough they are. I wouldn't surprise me to see them pull this one upset. It won't last though and at some point they will fall to a better team.
--Did the Chargers finally, finally figure out that Big Mike is their best receiver? Maybe. He finished with 9-119-1 on 17 targets compared to only 8 for Keenan Allen. It wouldn't surprise me if they tried to bring him back next year and make him the 1A and Allen the 1B. That's how it should have been all year, but maybe we were just a little early.
--Another change I'd like to see next year is more time for Josh Palmer over Jalen Guton. Palmer did actually outsnap Guyton here although it was close. I don't think they can hold him down much longer. He's the future at WR for the Chargers, possibly as the #2 behind Mike.
--Hunter Renfrow finished as the ppr WR10 on the season and WR16 in points per game. It's a phenomenal accomplishment for a guy that was ignored by the masses until the middle of the season. We covered his rise early in the year when everyone else was still on the Ruggs train, and we also covered his fall these past four games as Zay Jones ascended.
That's the part getting lost in the Renfrow feel-good story. He tailed off hard the past four games. Over that span he averaged a mere 5.5 targets per game for 4 catches, 40 yards, and 1.0 TD's per game. Renfrow transformed from ppr monster in the mold of Julian Edelman into an uncoverable goalline specialist. Go figure.
--As Renfrow fell in importance to the offense, Jones was rising. His last four games he averaged 9 targets for 6 catches, 61 yards, and 0 TD's, essentially taking over the chain-moving role that Renfrow had filled for most of the year.
Jones is a talent in the mold of Diontae Johnson. He has great feet off the snap and a talent for accelerating at the last second to create separation. Neither guy is very big or particularly athletic, but they both know how to play receiver in a way that transcends their physical abilities.
Jones's early career got derailed in Buffalo due to some injuries and personal issues, but he's finally getting things turned around in LV.
--I have no interest in Bryan Edwards anymore. They've shown me no interest in him at all.
So which guy are we interested in for 2022? I'm going to have to think more about this, and I'd be curious to hear RC's answer, but my gut tells me I want in on Jones more than Renfrow. He's the better talent and the guy that Carr transitioned to late. I bet that carries over into next year. If Jones becomes Carr's Diontae that could be pretty sweet for ppr.
*RC NOTE: Let’s see if Zay returns, first. He’s a free agent at just the right time. But if Carr and Bisaccia are back, and it’s basically the same team/staff/offense – I’ll probably take Renfrow but I won’t rule out the right answer being Zay (if he’s back).
--All year long I heard about how great Darren Waller is and how much the offense was missing him blah blah blah. And then he comes out here and puts up 2 catches for 22 yards on 9 targets. He had that one monster game the first game of the season and everyone latched onto that as proof of his immortal status, but he only had 2 other games over 70 yards the rest of the year.
I was a fan until this year, but something is up with him. I've seen too many defenders shutting him down. Maybe he's been slowed by the injuries he was dealing with? I don't know but I'm definitely not as high on him for 2022 now.
--What a great game from Uchenna Nwosu (7 tackles, 1 sack, 4 tfl, 1 pd). He was causing so much trouble for the LV offensive line, but his performance was kind of lost by all the attention Crosby got for destroying Storm Norton.
He's been a rotational pass rusher most of the year, but his snaps have been trending up recently and he finally seems to be delivering on the promise he showed as a 2nd round pick in 2018. Not the biggest guy, he's a very quick, active rusher that tries to beat people with speed. Sometimes guys like that take some time to figure out how to get by very athletic NFL blockers. I'll be watching him next year to see if he's ready to make a bigger jump.
Snap Counts of Interest
82 = Allen
67 = Williams
56 = Palmer
50 = Guyton
71 = Zay
56 = Edwards
51 = Renfrow