The Raiders are 1-3 and face a division foe they haven’t beaten in 13 straight games. The Chargers reign as AFC West favorites may now be over despite preseason predictions.
With the Chargers and Broncos at 2-2 and the Chiefs at 3-0, the Raiders have little margin for error. Lose and the season is lost. The Raiders had pivotal games week three and four and couldn’t muster a win to cement themselves in the middle of the AFC West race.
Now the Raiders must climb up hill and get a key home win against a team they haven’t beaten since 2003.
A win today against the Chargers could catapult the Raiders to a 4-5 record by the week 10 bye week with games upcoming against San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and Kansas City.
The Chargers have allowed just 238 yards per game on defense with 15 total sacks and 7 interceptions which all rank second in the league.
The Raiders passing offense failed to take advantage of a terrible Texans secondary last week and now will face its toughest challenge of the season.
Robert Gallery is out and the brutally bad offensive line will be forced to block one of the better pass rushing teams in the league. This sounds like a broken record because it is. One common theme for the past seven seasons has been an offensive line that can’t pass block.
The Raiders will need to run the ball to have success and Michael Bush draws the start for the injured Darren McFadden. While Bush is more than capable, ball security may be an issue after a preseason thumb injury.
As with most weeks, the Raiders can’t win if they are playing from behind. The passing offense isn’t capable of a come-from-behind win.
Zach Miller will need to have another big game and create some room for the receivers on the outside. The Chargers are banged up at linebacker so expect them to cover Miller with a defensive back in passing situations.
No Vincent Jackson, no problem? Don’t expect Nnamdi Asomugha to do much shadowing today unless he is covering Antonio Gates. While Michael Huff has struggles making tackles this season, he is historically very good covering Gates. Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff must play better in run support when they have the opportunity to make a tackle.
Perhaps a bigger issue is the Raiders have allowed 5.3 yards per carry on the ground. The worst in the league. What happened to fixing the run defense?
Scott moves back to outside linebacker today and Matt Shaughnessy will start at defensive end. We may find out if Quentin Groves was part of the problem today or if it continues to be the defensive line.
Rolando McClain is getting closer to being an impact player, when he stops thinking so much and plays instinctively he will be a much better player. With four games under his belt McClain need to start adjusting. Today he will be tasked with stopping a Chargers running game consisting of a rotation of Mike Tolbert, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles.
The Raiders biggest challenge is pass rushing Phillip Rivers with just a four or five-man rush. If the Raiders can pressure Rivers without bringing extra rushers they will have a chance to limit the Chargers passing game.