As unpredictable as the AFC West has been the past few seasons, tonight’s matchup should fall right in line with that trend.
Sunday’s NFL games taught us that nothing in this league is guaranteed, as the New Orleans Saints fell to the Robert Griffin III led Washington Redskins, the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions barely took care of business and that Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning.
As the NFL’s opening weekend comes to an end, did the games really teach us anything about how the 2012 season will shake out? And what better way to close out Week 1 than to have two middling franchises possibly give us the best game we’ve seen thus far?
The Chargers begin the post-Vincent Jackson era, so it will be interesting to see how quarterback Philip Rivers can adjust. And the Raiders always seem to be in flux, but actually appear to have a sense of stability with an entirely new front office and the hope that Darren McFadden can finally put together a completely healthy season.
Here is one bold prediction for each team in Monday night’s opener:
San Diego Receiving Targets Make it Easy for Fans to Forget about Vincent Jackson
The Chargers lost wide receiver Jackson to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the offseason.
However, Rivers is still Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates seems to have a bit left in the tank as well.
San Diego also returns Malcolm Floyd, and was able to lure Robert Meachem away from the Saints' high flying passing attack in New Orleans as well.
With running back Ryan Mathews not expected back until Week 2, the Chargers will need to rely on Rivers if they plan on exiting Oakland with a victory tonight.
With the Raiders finishing 27th in the league defending the pass last season (251.4 yards per game and 31 touchdowns allowed), this might not be such a bad thing.
Look for Rivers to lean on Gates while trying to find an early-season rhythm with Meachem tonight against the porous Oakland pass defense.
A Healthy McFadden Opens Back-to-Back Seasons with Over 150 Rushing Yards
Since being drafted with the fourth-overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, McFadden has been one of the more high-risk/high-reward players in the league.
When healthy, McFadden is considered one of the best running backs in the NFL. He is a very versatile threat whose only downfall has been his inability to stay on the field for the Raiders, something that has held the franchise back even more in recent years.
McFadden began 2011 on a mission to prove that he can be relied on for an entire season; he went out and shredded the Denver Broncos defense for 150 yards on just 22 carries in the 2011 opener.
The Raiders and McFadden open the 2012 season against a Chargers defense that ranked 20th last year by giving up 122.22 yards per game.
With wide receiver Jacoby Ford out for tonight’s game, quarterback Carson Palmer and the Oakland offense will do well to lean on McFadden a bit more to increase their chance to begin the season on the positive side of the win column.