The Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers start a new chapter in their long and bitter rivalry Sunday as the Chargers travel to the Black Hole to take on their greatest enemy for the first time in the 2010 season.
The Chargers enter this game having won the last 13 games in a row against the Oakland Raiders, and they will be looking to extend that streak and generate some momentum heading towards the more difficult part of their schedule.
The Raiders, on the other hand, find themselves sinking into a hole, exactly where they thought they wouldn't be coming into the season.
Despite the spark that Bruce Gradkowski provided to the Oakland Raiders offense, he has not done enough to get them a win since taking over for Jason Campbell in Week 2 against the St. Louis Rams.
The Raiders will be hungry for the win this weekend, considering they have several things going for them:
- Home Field Advantage: The Raiders always want to put on a show for Raider Nation, and the yearly game against San Diego is always the biggest. The 12th man will be rowdy on Sunday, and that will really energize the Raiders.
- Desperation: The Raiders need a win, because their season is headed in the wrong direction very quickly. A win against the Chargers could put them in the AFC West title discussions.
- Plain, old-fashioned hatred: The Raiders hate the Chargers with a passion that can hardly be measured. They don't just want to win, they want to rough up San Diego, as they did in last year's season opener, when they managed to take down Jamal Williams for the season, and put Nick Hardwick and LaDainian Tomlinson on the bench for a long time.
On the other hand, though, the Raiders also have a lot going wrong for them, the most significant of which is their injury situation. The Raiders are dealing with a slew of injuries to starters and backups alike, but none more significant than the injury to running back Darren McFadden.
McFadden has started to show the promise that led the Raiders to draft him, but nagging injury problems continue to limit his playing time. If he cannot perform at his peak against the Chargers, Oakland will have a hard time moving the ball, even with Michael Bush on the field.
The Chargers have their fair share of problems as well:
- Injuries: The Changers lost Jyles Tucker, one of their backup OLBs, for the season, and Shawne Merriman continues to miss time while nursing a continuous flow of injuries.
- Suspension: The Chargers lost starting strong safety and leading tackler Steve Gregory this week to a four game suspension for testing positive for PEDs. This is a big loss for the Chargers, especially since the Raiders figure to exploit the middle of the field with leading receiver TE Zach Miller.
- Special Teams Woes: Despite the fact that they managed to keep LaRod Stephens-Howling in check, the San Diego special teams unit is still questionable, and things don't get easier this week as they face Jacoby Ford and Johnnie Lee Higgins.
But, having won 13 straight games against the Raiders, the Chargers have a lot of series momentum coming into Sundays game. That and they boast one of the statistically best teams in the League, with the number one offense and number two defense in the League.
Some Important Notes:
- Louis Vasquez was limited in practice this week, but should be out against the Raiders as he continues to recover from a knee injury. Tyronne Green will start in his place.
- Should Shawne Merriman be unable to play, San Diego fans will get another glimpse at Antwan Applewhite,who is turning into a good pass rusher.
- The Chargers have resigned Dante Hughes, who could be a key player on special teams.
- Oakland Raiders DT John Henderson could be out another month with a stress fracture in his foot. He will certainly not play against the Chargers.
- Darren McFadden, averaging 4.6 yards per carry, is only 10 carries short of Bruce Gradkowski's pass attempts.
- The San Diego Chargers have won the last 13 matchups between these two teams, stretching back to Week 4 of the 2003 season.
This one should be a good one, regardless of player and team issues on both sides. The Raiders and the Chargers always manage to produce interesting games when playing each other.
Want to hear more about this game? Follow me on Twitter @chriseggemeyer, I will be putting out new info on the game every day until game time.