Oakland must slow down Philip Rivers on Monday night.
With Mathews out of the lineup, the Raiders can focus their attention solely on Philip Rivers and the San Diego passing attack. Oakland did a solid job of containing him when the two teams met for the first time in Week 10, but couldn't stop him in Week 17 when he threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns.
Rivers threw for nearly as many interceptions as he did touchdowns in 2011, but torched the Raiders when it mattered most by sending them home without the AFC West crown.
Despite his shaky season last year, Rivers is still top-five quarterback material. Unfortunately, he lost his big target Vincent Jackson in the offseason.
The Chargers signed Robert Meachem to compensate the hit they took for losing Jackson, but it's still a downgrade. Even though Meachem won't produce as much as Jackson did, he's still more than capable of making big plays.
One of the things that makes Rivers so dangerous is his ability to spread the ball around to nearly everyone on the field.
He's also 9-3 against the Raiders in his career, and the Chargers are 8-2 in Oakland over the last 10 years.
With Mathews out, Rivers will have to rely on his old pal Antonio Gates, who caught five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown in Week 17; Malcom Floyd, who caught seven passes for 127 yards and a touchdown in Week 17; and his new weapon Meachem.
The Raiders finished near the bottom of the league against the pass last season. But with a new regime in Oakland, including a new defensive identity led by coordinator Jason Tarver and head coach Dennis Allen, the anticipation is high for the silver and black's Monday night defensive performance.
In order to leave O.co Coliseum with a 1-0 record, the Raiders must shut down Rivers early and prevent him from getting into any sort of rhythm. Otherwise, their new-look defense will be in for a rude awakening.