Justin Herbert could well be headed to winning AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Derek Carr might be on track to earning the respect he’s been long overdue. The final stretch of the season is likely to determine if those aspirations come to fruition. Herbert could make history on Thursday as his 25 touchdown passes have him within striking distance of Baker Mayfield’s single-season rookie record of 27. Herbert has been a beacon of hope for a struggling Chargers franchise and a model of spectacular for a first-year player. Over the past few weeks, he’s had his struggles, but after his worst outing in a 45-0 Week 13 loss to the Patriots, Herbert responded with his first game-winning drive to lead the Bolts past the Falcons, 20-17. Going 36-for-44 for 243 yards and two touchdowns, Herbert became the first rookie with an 80-plus completion percentage on 40 or more attempts since at least 1950, per NFL Research. In his previous start against the Raiders, he had 326 yards and two TDs, so Herbert’s stellar opening campaign could be headed for another sterling showing. But the Carr-led Raiders won that first matchup and more than anything, victories matter for Carr and Co. right now. Just as the Raiders did, Carr (who’s having an overall excellent year with 24 touchdowns to seven interceptions and 257.2 yards per game) got off to an excellent start to the season. Following a promising 6-3 opening, though, Las Vegas is 1-3 over its last four. Carr has had eight turnovers across the last four outings, with at least one interception in each game after throwing just two in the first nine games. In fairness to Carr, the Raiders’ rushing attack hasn’t produced more than 89 yards in any of its last four games. Win or lose, Carr’s shouldering Vegas’ offensive fate and doing so with a limited receiving corps. Beyond tight end Darren Waller, Carr’s options have been limited, though Nelson Agholor has shown promise. With the Raiders’ playoff hopes fading, Carr’s most likely going to have to outduel a star rookie in Herbert who’s looking to close out an all-time great first campaign.
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