Oakland Raiders Look to Turn It Around Against the Surging San Diego Chargers

Anthony Hardin SrContributor INovember 29, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Ronnie Brown #23 of the Miami Dolphins runs the ball during their game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on November 28, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Be afraid, Raider fans, be very afraid.  You and your beloved Oakland Raiders have been down this road before.  And, as you may remember, once this team collectively decides to mail it in, the downward spiral never seems to end. 

One consolation is that Sunday’s game was blacked out, so you were spared the horror of watching it all unfold.  So break out those bottles of Pepto and stock up on the boxes of Kleenex because this could get ugly real fast!

After a tumultuous and embarrassing performance against the average Miami Dolphins, at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the Raiders defense made a hobbled Chad Henne look like Dan Marino, and allowed Ricky Williams to look like, well, Ricky Williams.  The Raiders have proven, yet again, that they are not ready to collectively take that next step and win the games, which on paper they should. 

No, this team is still several key players away from being a divisional contender and playoff bound.  Luckily, rookie wide receiver Jacoby Ford has not received that memo and continues to play way over his head. 

On Sunday, Ford led the Raiders offense in return yards, receiving yards and rushing yards.  This, of course, is great if you have him on your fantasy team, but on a team with both Darren McFadden and Michael Bush, your rookie wide receiver should never lead the team in rushing yards.

If not for the fantastic play of Ford at the wide receiver position, this team would really be in disarray.  Ford has been the lone bright spot of a unit in desperate need of a sure-handed play-maker.

Questions still abound as to who exactly is the starting quarterback for this team.  Head coach Tom Cable seems to be unable to decide on a quarterback—he must make a choice and let the team sink or swim with him.  But no, Coach Cable continues to flip flop between Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell.  Odds are that Cable will go with Campbell; he did step in for an injured Gradkowski against the Chargers and get the win. 

For a team that seemed to be clicking on all cylinders in the earlier part of the season, there seems to be something terribly wrong. 

The 5-6 Raiders are staring right down the barrel of an away game, against red-hot AFC West divisional rival San Diego.  And unfortunately for Oakland, these are not the Chargers that Oakland beat back in early October.  Phillip Rivers torched the defense for 431 yards and 2 touchdowns, and receiver Malcom Floyd pulled down eight catches for 213 yards and a touchdown.   

If not for safety Michael Huffs's forced fumble and the subsequent return for a touchdown by Tyvon Branch to end the probable game-winning drive, these teams could have been on totally different paths—and Oakland could be looking at a 14-game losing streak to the Bolts. 

No, this San Diego team is on a roll having won four straight. They now look like the AFC favorite that they were supposed to be. 

In some cruel and maddening way, this game is exactly what the Raiders need right now.  It is gut check time, and what better way to test your team's resolve than by facing a divisional rival to find out what your squad is truly made of? 

Was this the way Raiders fans wanted it? 

Not by any stretch of the imagination.  But to be the best you have to beat the best, and the Raiders have not shown the ability to beat the top-tier teams when the opportunity arises.  Until Oakland can string together consecutive wins over quality opponents and stop shooting themselves in the foot, they will continue to be considered mediocre at best.

Stranger things have happened, and one thing every true Raider fan knows is that when their team hits the field, as they did against San Diego in Week 5, one must always expect the unexpected.