NFL: How Oakland Raiders Can Shut Down San Diego Chargers' Biggest Weapons
Thank the Lord, football season is finally upon us.
Wednesday night saw the Dallas Cowboys beat defending Super Bowl champ New York Giants 24-17 in the season opener at Metlife Stadium, and contented sighs of relief were let loose all over America as the first game of the season is now in the books.
Richard Seymour and the Raiders defense will have their hands full trying to contain the Chargers pass-happy offense, so here are five key matchups that will determine if the Raiders can shut down San Diego's biggest weapons.
Ron Bartell vs. Malcom Floyd
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Ron Bartell missed all but one game last season with a neck injury with the St. Louis Rams. He has since fully healed and been picked up by the Raiders.
Bartell will most likely be Oakland's starting CB on Monday, and his assignment will most likely be Malcom Floyd.
Floyd hasn't been the most prolific WR for the Chargers, but he's still an aerial threat with safe hands. Last season he caught 43 passes for 856 yards and five touchdowns, but he's only fumbled the ball once in his NFL career.
Bartell and Floyd are both NFL vets, but Bartell is going to have to play tight coverage in his first NFL start in nearly a year.
Oakland Linebackers vs. Antonio Gates
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Antonio Gates may have just turned 32, but with Ryan Mathews hurt, Vincent Brown with a broken foot and Vincent Jackson gone, Philip Rivers will look to his one last familiar target.
Gates may have gotten slower due to age and injuries, but he's still a pretty good route runner. Oakland's linebackers are going to have their hands full with the wily veteran.
If the secondary can shut Gates down, Rivers will be forced to throw out wide for short yardage, which wouldn't be an ideal game plan for moving the chains.
Shutting Down Ronnie Brown
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Brown had an awful season last season with the Eagles, carrying the ball only 42 times for 136 yards and a single touchdown as LeSean McCoy's backup.
If Brown continues this form, then Oakland will have no problem stuffing Brown all night long.
Shawntae Spencer vs. Robert Meachem
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Shawntae Spencer will have the task of stopping Meachem from doing so. The aging Spencer will have his hands full trying to cover the younger and more explosive Meachem, but Meachem and Rivers still aren't completely comfortable working together yet.
It could lead to Spencer padding the INT column on his career sheet.
The Defensive Line Against Philip Rivers
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In the 4-3, Oakland will most likely line Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, Richard Seymour and Matt Shaughnessy up against the Chargers O-line and Phillip Rivers.
Obviously, if any one of these guys can penetrate the offensive line and get to Rivers, that would be a huge help, but look for Richard Seymour to get in more often than not. The Chargers allowed 30 sacks last year, so Seymour and company to look to pressure Rivers early and often.
If the defense can hurry Rivers consistently, he will have a hard time hooking up with his new-look receiving corps and the Chargers offense will struggle.
All stats courtesy of ESPN