The Oakland Raiders are consistently underestimated, and the San Diego Chargers will do that to their cost on Monday night.
There is a new dawn rising in Oakland and this Week 1 matchup will be the first glimpse of it. This fixture has always had a hard-hitting history and Monday should only continue that trend.
San Diego has already had injury problems, so it will be likely be without running back Ryan Mathews as well as wide receiver Vincent Brown.
This will only add to the woes of the Chargers as Oakland gets its season off with a bang. There will be three men integral to the Raiders’ victory, and they are outlined below.
With a full offseason and training camp under his belt, Palmer needs to come out and prove to the world that he is a threat this year.
Palmer didn’t get a lot of credit for the way he performed last year and he should use that as motivation for this season.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will have had a chance to work closely with Palmer over the offseason and get him properly acquainted to the new playbook.
Expect to see Palmer’s control of the offense improve, along with awareness of receiving routes as the play develops.
Bootlegs and roll-outs will be featured much more this year, so Palmer’s arm will cause problems for the Chargers as he throws on the move.
San Diego’s pass rush has been upgraded, but it is still less than stellar. Palmer will have a chance to spread the ball around, so look for the Raiders to take an early lead and never look back.
It’s not yet known if receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford will return for the Chargers game. However, Darrius Heyward-Bey has developed a connection with Palmer and will build on his good numbers from last season.
If Moore and Ford don’t recover in time for the season opener, McFadden will shoulder an extra workload.
We saw what the Raiders could do with McFadden healthy, and the Chargers game will mark the first time he lines up with Palmer as his quarterback.
McFadden is yet to complete a full season, but that’s because he just gives it everything. In 2010, he ran for 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns in just 13 games. It’s this type of form that he will be expected to find in Week 1.
The Chargers defense has suffered a glut of hamstring injuries at cornerback, which has left the team short on experience. Palmer will make the most of this through the air, while McFadden will dominate on the ground, as well as lining up in the slot on occasion.
Drafted eighth overall in 2010, McClain is yet to make the impact that was expected of him. The shift of emphasis from man coverage this year will undoubtedly be of benefit to him.
The Raiders need a strong presence at the linebacker position and McClain will provide it this year. ESPN.com reported that Dennis Allen had high praise for McClain’s performance in camp:
A guy I think that has been exceptional has been Rolando McClain. He’s been a guy that has done everything we have asked him to do. He’s smart.
He understands the defense and the concepts we are trying to run, and if he continues to improve the way he has been improving and continues to fit within the scheme the way he has done so far, I would expect him to have a good year.
At this point, McClain is playing for his future and, with a new defensive system in place, he has the ability to dominate.
The Chargers have some issues along their offensive line—again through injury—and McClain should have opportunities to get through to Philip Rivers and halt his production.
Rivers was sacked six times during this fixture last year. McClain will make sure he hasn’t forgotten.