2 teams with a long history against each other. It’s one of the more bitter rivalries in the NFL.
Both teams are in a transition period. The chargers are getting used to a new system, new coaches, and roster turnover. The Raiders have been in a transition period since 2002, and of course not having Al Davis skulking around is probably weird for a lot of players.
I’ll start with the Chargers perspective.
Key to victory- Philip Rivers
Pretty obvious, outside of Peyton Manning, no one has gotten off to a better start than Rivers, he’s completing nearly 74% of his passes and is 2nd in passer rating. The make-shift line in front of him has held up and he’s thriving in McCoy’s up-tempo offense. He’s the key for the Chargers in every game going forward.
I almost put them as the key to victory, but the Chargers can (and have) won with them playing poorly. The running game of Oakland is the only thing I see stopping this chargers offense, time of possession will be important to both teams.
They will also have to contain a terrific athlete at quarterback, nothing kills a teams spirit quite like a QB picking up 1st downs with his legs. The role of shadowing Pryor will likely fall to Butler who is coming off a sub par outing after coming back from injury, he needs to get his act together or the chargers defense could be in for a long day.
They also need to generate a pass rush to force Pryor into making mistakes and punish him when he uses his athletic ability to make plays, he’s a young, inexperienced QB, the chargers need to make him look like one.
Key to defeat- Ryan Matthews
There’s not a running back in the league who frustrates quite like he does. Fumble and injury prone, wildly inconsistent, and doesn’t seem to have great vision. He’s a talented runner though. At the end of the day, he’s the most likely to produce a bone headed turnover that will change the outcome of the game or just not show up at all, allowing the raiders front 7 to focus their attention on pummeling Rivers. I don’t know if Woodhead is capable of being a primary back, but if Matthews continues to disappoint, I hope I get to find out.
Overall Outlook- feels good
They SHOULD win this game, but that doesn’t mean they will. They’ve played very well this year, but a good start can’t erase 2 years of mind-numbing bone-headedry (not a word but it’s the only adjective I could think of).
If the Chargers are bone heads than the Raiders are just plain stupid, sorry if that hurts any ones feelings, but it’s the truth, no team costs themselves wins with dumb plays quite like the Raiders have for the past 10+ years.
Key to victory- keep the ball!
They need to keep Rivers off the field, that means running the ball, converting 3rd downs, and getting the chargers off the field on 3rd downs.
Pryor will be the key to the key to victory, because he’s the QB and their most effective runner. He needs to be disciplined in this game, that means making safe passes, getting the Raiders into manageable down and distances and using his athletic ability to manufacture 1st downs. Can he do it? That’s a very good question.
McFadden is a close 2nd to Pryor in this game, he needs to produce in this game, if the raiders want to win he needs to get the ball early and often and he needs to do something with it. He hasn’t had a bad year, he’s averaging 4 yards a carry, but he hasn’t come close to living up to the hype. It doesn’t help that he’s banged up, if he can’t go, the Raiders could have a tough time moving the football.
The Raiders have a tough task ahead of them to achieve this goal, the Chargers are 2nd only to the Denver Broncos in 3rd down conversions, while the Raiders are middle of the pack. The burden of controlling the clock will not fall on the Raiders 5th ranked rushing attack, but their 18th ranked defense. Oakland is 30th in opposing Passer Rating and 32nd in completion % with an unbelievably bad 72.1%, and they’re going up against a QB completing 74% of his passes. Yeah, they could be in for a really rough day.
X factor- the pass rush
Tempted to go with Jennings, with McFadden’s status in doubt, but the pass rush is more important.
The Raiders pass rush hasn’t been as bad as their overall pass d would suggest, they rank 14th in sacks with 11, but sacks don’t always equal good pass rush. If they want to win they need to apply pressure on Rivers consistently throughout the game. It doesn’t matter if they get sacks, they need to get Rivers uncomfortable if they want to win this game, if he’s comfortable he’ll pick apart any defense all the time, and it’s not like the Raiders secondary is so good that they can deal with any qb who has time to throw.
Key to defeat- the defense.
For all the reasons I already mentioned really. They’re the reason why they’re 1-3.
Overall outlook- Not good.
They have to play a near perfect game to win this game. The task just seems to great, it’ll take a total team effort, and they have too many flaws to overcome a resurgent Philip Rivers.
DJ’s second look:
38-21? Wow. That’s pretty out there. Let’s take a closer look at San Diego’s injury report.
Malcolm Floyd suffered a neck injury and Dwight Freeney (torn quadriceps) were put on the injured reserve, ending their seasons.
Floyd was averaging almost 25 yards per catch and he was Rivers’ deep threat to stretch the field. Freeney started all 4 games and was a huge presence as a pass rusher that offenses had to be aware of at all times.
Additionally, the Raiders running attack is averaging 137.5 yards (5th in the NFL) and the Chargers are allowing yards (25th). The Raiders strength is their running game and SD’s defensive weakness is stopping the run. This is going to determine the game because I guarantee the the Chargers are going to have their hands full.
Your completion % and QB Rating stats for the Oakland defense are a little misleading. Just a little.
Oakland’s pass defense (237.5ypg, 14th) is actually better than the run defense (111.8ypg, 21st).
Without Floyd, Rivers may have to resort to dinking and dunking with tight end Antonio Gates and his running backs, especially Danny Woodhead. Eddie Royal is the only legut threat at WR and he’s much more of a possession receiver than a game breaker.
Mathews is averaging 3.5ypc and he isn’t much of a threat and Woodhead is much more important to the passing game than the running game. I think the Raiders defense will stack 8 in the box and force Rivers throw the ball, allowing Oakland’s solid pass rush to find their way to the QB.
Prediction: Chargers win, 24-20.
It’s going to be a lot closer than you think though.
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