Stock Watch: Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers
A weekly series recapping three players on the Oakland Raiders whose stock is on the rise after playing well, and three players whose stock has taken a hit after a poor performance.
In dramatic fashion, the Oakland Raiders defeated the San Diego Chargers 19-16. For the first time since 2002, the 11-3 Raiders have clinched a playoff berth.
Divisional matchups are no cakewalk, especially in the AFC West — statistically the most competitive division this season. For four quarters, quarterback Phillip Rivers and the Chargers gave the Raiders a battle in their quest to a playoff spot. With the No. 1 spot in the division up for grabs, the Raiders defense secured the win.
Here are three players who stepped up, and three players who had it rough in Week 15.
Let’s start with players whose stock is on the rise.
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) December 5, 2016
It goes without saying that Irvin has served as Robin to All-Pro linebacker Khalil Mack’s Batman. Sunday, Irvin bust out of Mack’s shadow, recording 5 tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble.
It was Irvin’s consistent pressure on Rivers that caused him to throw the game-ending interception to Reggie Nelson. Throughout the season, Irvin has struggled on the edge in regards to the run, but he improved drastically Sunday. Against the Chargers, Irvin helped hold San Diego’s backfield to just 73 yards on 22 carries.
The majority of linebacker Malcolm Smith’s tenure in Silver and Black has been inconsistent. Smith’s lackluster performance in coverage has allowed big plays and touchdowns throughout the season.
But Sunday, Smith excelled, nabbing a key fumble recovery and restricting the field in coverage. With the Raiders remaining schedule, one can only hope Smith’s play continues to trend up as Oakland looks to win the division.
Since the injury of rookie sensation safety Karl Joseph, Nate Allen has had no choice but to step up. While Allen’s coverage skills are serviceable to be modest, his performance Sunday was exceptional.
Against the battle-tested Rivers, Allen showed his veteran leadership. In Oakland’s previous matchup with the Chargers, Rivers threw for 359 yards. On Sunday, Rivers was held to just 206.
As always, there is a downside to every game.
Here are three players whose stock is trending down following their performance in Sunday’s game.
You are only as strong as your weakest link, and for the Raiders offensive line, that’s tackle Austin Howard.
Oakland allowed 10 pressures on quarterback Derek Carr, five at the hands of Howard. The Chargers only sack of the game came at the hands of Howard as well.
For the Raiders Super Bowl hopes to come into fruition, they will have to surpass the AFC’s best pass rushes. With Howard on the line, they are at a supreme disadvantage.
Second-year receiver Amari Cooper has achieved another 1000 yard season, breaking records and showing extreme potential. But as of late, Cooper has struggled to connect with quarterback Derek Carr.
Last week it was his errant route running that resulted in a missed game-winning opportunity in Kansas City. This week, he was nearly invisible, with just one catch for 28 yards. Cooper’s sporadic play against the hobbled Chargers secondary may be a red flag, considering the importance of Oakland’s next two games.
It goes without saying that Sean Smith is a reliable corner; as long as a receiver is tall and slow. Chargers receiver Travis Benjamin burned Smith for a touchdown, a testament to Smith’s inability to keep up with speedy wideouts.
Considering Oakland’s upcoming matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, Smith will be matched up with another speedy guy in T.Y. Hilton. The two have a history, dating back to Hilton’s torching of Smith when he was a Miami Dolphin.