Playing a team that just knocked off the No. 1 contender in the AFC might not be exactly what the Oakland Raiders need to snap out of their month-long drought. Having already defeated the San Diego Chargers once this season, however, should give Dennis Allen’s team a boost.
The Week 16 matchup between these longtime AFC West rivals could also mark one of the final games with Darren McFadden in an Oakland uniform. The veteran running back is scheduled to be a free agent in the offseason, and general manager Reggie McKenzie is almost certain to let him walk.
Equally intriguing is whether the Raiders will continue to rotate quarterbacks and whether their defense will pull out of the tailspin it’s been in for the past four games.
Here’s a look at some of the key things to know heading into Oakland’s Week 16 game against San Diego.
Leave it to the Chargers to throw a wrench into the division standings. Mike McCoy’s squad has been up and down all season before settling down to make a push for the postseason. A 27-20 win over the first-place Denver Broncos was the latest step in the right direction and got San Diego to .500, needing to jump two teams to get into the playoffs.
|AFC West Standings|
|Kansas City Chiefs||11-3||--||399||255|
|San Diego Chargers||7-7||4||343||311|
Denver still has control in the division and in the AFC. The Broncos are the top seed and have the tiebreaking advantage over Kansas City should it come down to that. They also have an easier stretch run, closing with the Houston Texans and Raiders while the Chiefs play a pair of playoff contenders in the Indianapolis Colts and the Chargers.
Oakland? At 4-10 they need to win one of their final two games to show improvement in the standings and to avoid an epic collapse that would only be comparable to the crumbling act they pulled in 2012.
Allen said during a press conference earlier this week that he expects McFadden to practice Wednesday, and the news is equally optimistic about safety Charles Woodson. Woodson injured his ribs during the first half of the Raiders' 56-31 loss to the Chiefs, but Allen said “I anticipate he’ll be fine.”
|LB Miles Burris||Ankle sprain||TE Jeron Mastrud||Wrist||S Charles Woodson||Ribs|
The same goes for tight end Jeron Mastrud, while the situation with Miles Burris is a little more uncertain.
WHAT HAS TO IMPROVE
• Quarterback Matt McGloin’s passer rating has gone down almost every week since his big game against the Houston Texans in Week 11, which is a better indication of how he’s played rather than his passing yards. The undrafted rookie quarterback has accounted for eight turnovers in five games (seven interceptions, one fumble), and his decision-making hasn’t been as sharp as it once was.
• Missed tackles have been a sore spot for the defense all season, and it was on full display against the Chiefs when the Raiders allowed Jamaal Charles to score five touchdowns, three of them on screen passes where he was barely touched. It’s a problem that has gotten progressively worse, a sign the players are getting tired or they’ve given up. Either way, it’s not a good thing.
• The pass defense has also been spotty at best over the past month. Far too often opposing receivers are being allowed to get wide open without so much as a shove from Oakland’s defensive backs. The secondary needs to be more physical, particularly with jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage.
• Oakland’s defense sacked Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith twice and only knocked him around a handful of other times. If the Raiders can’t get more consistent heat on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, it will be a long, long day at the office for the defensive backs.
* All information contained in this and any report by Michael Wagaman was obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.