If you are a follower of the Las Vegas Raiders or Jon Gruden you probably know enough not to get overly excited about success in the first half of the season. But being 3 – 0 isn’t a bad place to be, especially when it puts you atop the AFC West, which could be the most competitive division in the NFL.

On Monday night, the Raiders will take on a division rival as they tackle the 2-1 Los Angeles Chargers in a game that starts at 8:15 p.m. Eastern time at the beautiful and relatively new SoFi Stadium.

As far as the Monday Night Football betting lines at BetOnline are concerned, the Chargers are a three-point favorite, with a total of 52 points.

The Chargers got some fresh leadership this season in the person of Brandon Staley, who worked wonders rebuilding the Los Angeles Rams defense last season. But he’s got a ways to go as far as that stop unit is concerned, as we’ll explore in a moment.

The “other” LA team has gained more yardage per drive than any other in the NFL this season. But they have also had a problem converting Red Zone appearances into touchdowns. The Chargers are only 46.7% successful in doing it, and that definitely has to improve.

With the weapons on hand, there is no reason it eventually shouldn’t. We point to the likes of wide receivers Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, who already have over 500 receiving yards between them. Williams has also scored four times and both of these receivers have been targeted eight times in the Red Zone by quarterback Justin Herbert.

Oddly, even though this Charger defense beat Kansas City last Sunday on the strength of holding Patrick Mahomes that just 260 yards through the air, it is the defense that might pose the biggest challenge for Staley in his first season at the helm. If we use the metric of yards surrendered per drive, only two teams in the NFL have allowed more than these Chargers have. And we’ve got news for you — if the Raiders can improve upon their own so-so 53.9% touchdown success rate in the in the red zone, they could walk away with an easy victory.

There may be a question as to who will carry the football. Josh Jacobs has an ankle injury, and according to Gruden, he is a game-time decision. It’s as simple as just letting Jacobs try to run around a little prior to the game, and that will determine whether he can play. Jacobs has only carried the ball ten times this season, the same amount as quarterback Derek Carr. Marion Barber has been the featured back much of the way, with 36 carries for 143 yards. Those are not outstanding statistics, but Gruden wants at least some measure of balance.

And this particular game may call for more balance than usual. When you line up against Staley’s defense, he is absolutely committed to preventing the big plays from happening. Inasmuch as Derek Carr came into this game averaging 401 yards passing, that’s a big concern for him. Staley places his safeties back and that means less run support. That’s reflected in the 5.8 yards per attempt the Chargers have allowed on the ground.

Even though the Raiders have run the ball only 36% of the time, don’t get the impression that Gruden is shy about doing that, no matter who he has in the backfield. And remember that Kenyan Drake is also available, even though he’s averaged only two yards per carry and has been used mostly as a receiver.

It’s the perception here that against a Charger defense that is permissive and needs to get turnovers in order to succeed, the Raiders may have a pretty good formula for victory. And if they do have some success on the ground, well, you’ve seen what Carr can do through the air.

We are certainly not at the point where home-field means all that much to the Chargers; since they officially left San Diego they have covered only seven out of 24 home games. And in fact, owing to the Raiders’ legacy from their stay in Los Angeles, it’s quite possible they’ll bring more fans to the festivities.

We’re going to take the points.

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