Let there be no doubt, ladies and gentlemen, this is revenge week. The San Diego Chargers know they have to win this game as much as any other game on their schedule. They are heading into this upcoming match motivated to win, but there is a little extra motivation for the Chargers to win this game, and that's the fact that the Oakland Raiders are coming into town.
After a tough loss to the Raiders in Week 5, the Chargers are looking to even the score for this year. Looking at how the Chargers lost the last game, it is safe to say that the Raiders won that game by taking advantage of the Chargers' horrible special teams unit. Two blocked punts. One blocked punt went for a TD. The other gave the Raiders good field position in the Chargers red zone.
This time around, the Raiders have big problems if they think they'll hang with the Chargers. For one, special teams isn't a issue anymore for the Chargers.
Let's look at how the Chargers will play the Raiders to ensure a decisive victory.
In the first battle between the two division rivals, the Chargers put up 522 yards of offensive power. What is most startling about that 522 yards is the fact that 431 yards came against the Raiders pass defense. Why is this a big deal? The Raiders were ranked second in the league in pass defense during Week 5, and they still got torched by Philip Rivers, anyway, with Malcom Floyd putting up a career high 213 receiving yards.
The Raiders are currently ranked fifth in pass defense. Does it really matter? Not really, as Philip Rivers had his way with them during the first meeting. Does it matter if Rivers will be without Gates? Not really. For some odd reason, Rivers is putting up numbers regardless of what defense he is facing and always takes what the defense is giving him.
Getting to the point: The Chargers are going to throw the ball early. The reason is twofold.
The first reason is to score quickly and decisively. The Chargers don't perceive the Raiders offense as a threat, so they are likely to take more chances through the air than run the ball early in the game, especially when the Chargers defense has been playing the way they've been doing all season.
The other reason why the Chargers will throw the ball often is to put the game away and force the run-oriented Raiders to pass the ball. If the Chargers play with a big lead due to scoring through the air quickly, it'll help the Chargers defense not have to play the run. Then they could dictate what the Raiders offense will do. And the Raiders will pass. If the Raiders try to pass the ball, God bless them, as they'll be throwing into a second-ranked defense that has stuffed the likes of the Texans, Colts, Patriots and Broncos.
The Oakland Raiders lay claim to putting up barely over a 100 yards rushing with Darren McFadden. The Chargers lay claim to putting the Raiders under their season average in rushing per game. What does this mean? Nothing much, other than the fact the Raiders couldn't run the ball effective in the first game, as the Chargers limited them to 3.7 yards per carry.
The Chargers will continue to hold their dominance as one of the top run-stuffing teams in the league. If the Chargers' offensive aerial bombardment puts up points like it should, it'll force the Raiders to pass and get away from the run.
The Chargers should have no problem stopping the run game, as they have put a good stop to some of the top rushing teams in the NFL.
I highly doubt the Raiders will be successful against the Chargers. The Chargers will be putting eight in the box due to having not much respect for the Raiders passing attack. The Chargers front seven can handle the job, but with the Chargers offense trying to take more shots through the air, the Chargers defense should be trying to end the Raiders drives quick and decisively.
Word on the net is that Ryan Mathews should be healthy for this game. Mathews couldn't have came at a better time. Mike Tolbert is nursing a minor hand injury from the last game, but the Chargers may want to split carries just to prevent Tolbert's minor injury from becoming a major issue.
If the Chargers play with the lead early like I expect them to, look no further than Mathews getting his first 100-plus yard game. The reason why I expect Mathews not only to have a big game but a 100-plus yard rushing performance is because he ran exceptionally well against the Raiders run defense. It shouldn't be surprising, as the Raiders run defense was horrible in Week 5 and is still bad, as they are ranked 28th in the league against the run.
Mathews ran for 59 yards on nine carries, averaging 6.6 yards per carry in their last meeting. I see Mathews proving his worth to the Chargers in this game, as he'll be a good goal-line threat.
Tolbert should contribute like he always has, but the Chargers don't want to see him hurt himself, especially after showing he can be the help the Chargers' push for the postseason.
Peyton Manning had 285 passing yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, with two going back for defensive touchdowns. Tom Brady had 159 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. Kyle Orton had 217 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. All of these top quarterbacks didn't do anything against the Chargers pass defense. Is it surprising? In a way, yeah, it is.
Will the Raiders be able to pass the ball on the Chargers? I highly doubt it. Some may argue that the Raiders will run the ball to pass. It's too bad that the last team that tried to do that was the Chiefs, as Matt Cassel passed for 68 yards and one touchdown. The Jaguars tried to run the ball to pass, but David Garrard ended up with 173 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
The Raiders will have to pass, as I don't believe this game will be close at all. The Chargers are returning some key players that they didn't have in the first game, and many of those players are on defense. All the players in the first meeting on the Chargers side are now more mature and experienced in Norv Turner's offense and Ron Rivera's defense—it shows in the past four games the Chargers have won in their current streak.
I honestly don't see this game all that close. I wish I can make a argument for the Raiders and look at it from their perspective, but I have a hard time seeing it. The Chargers are just too balanced for the Raiders on offense, and they'll take their shots at their weak run defense. But like I said, they'll pass the ball early and strong, as they won't fear the Raiders offense doing much against the Chargers defense.
Could it be a very close game? That's a good possibility, as most division teams play each other harder, but that's something that can't be measured. What can be measured are facts and logical thinking.
The only way I see the Chargers losing is if their special teams gaffs rear their ugly head, but after seeing the last two games coming off of a bye, and the moves made by bringing in the likes of special team mercenaries like Pat Watkins, it seems that the special teams won't be a problem.
The only way I see the Raiders having a shot at an upset is to play the field-position game. With their punter, they can do that. They can force Philip Rivers in an uncomfortable situation, forced to make longer drives and leaving a higher chance at making mistakes, versus mistakes that could be made on a shorter field.
The Chargers should still win. The Raiders have their backs against the wall, as this could be a last ditch effort for a playoff run. The problem is, the Chargers have been in a playoff mentality since four games ago.