Raiders-Chargers: Previewing the AFC West Showdown

Jeff LittleSenior Writer ISeptember 25, 2008

This is the third division opponent that the Raiders have faced in 2008 and by all accounts the team to beat by the entire AFC West. This is the 97th time these two rivals have met, and both are chasing the Denver Broncos.


The Chargers are a very talented team and have looked great offensively. The Raiders have a lot of talent and are still working on putting it all together and playing the perfect game.


That is what it is going to take to win this game.



When the Chargers have the ball


The Chargers have one of the best offenses in the league. QB Philip Rivers is playing at a high level, so too are his WRs Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Legedu Naanee, TE Antonio Gates, and RB Darren Sproles, and of course, LaDainian Tomlinson.


As a unit, they’re second in the league, averaging 36.7 points per game, fifth in total yardage, averaging 376.3 yards per game, fifth in the league in passing, averaging 279 yards per game, and, due to injury, the team is 24th in league rushing, averaging 97.3 yards per game.


The Chargers' top four receivers so far this season have been Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, Mike Tolbert, and LaDainian Tomlinson. 


The Chargers have been able to attack the Raiders both on the ground and through the air. So far this season, the passing game has been more effective than the running game. This team has made several big plays through the air, due to their playmakers at the WR position.



When the Raiders are on Defense


The Raiders need to forget about the "top down" distraction of Lane Kiffin’s job status that has plagued this team since the start of the year, fight through it, and come out with a strong effort, as shown in the first three quarters of both the games against the Chiefs and Bills and most importantly, finish the game.


The Raiders are 23rd in the league, allowing on average 24.3 points per game, 21st in the league, averaging 336.3 yards per game, 26th in the league, averaging 232.3 yards passing per game, and 13th in the league, averaging 104 yards rushing.


A high-level defensive effort needs to be had from the start of the game to the end of the game.


For the Raiders to stay in this game, they’ll need put a tremendous amount of pressure on Philip Rivers, they’ll need to shut down the running game, and stay sound in pass coverage, not allowing deep passes and limiting the passes underneath.


Due to L.T.’s toe injury, the Chargers will attack via the pass more often, but the Raiders always need to make it a point to stop the run.



When the Raiders have the ball


The Raiders are a running team, and they’ll need to get they’re running game going and use the combination of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush early. The passing game hasn’t gotten on track as of yet, but the team needs the WRs to step up and get more involved. Contrary to popular belief, the Raiders can pass the football.


JaMarcus Russell needs to be aware of the blitz and have the right protection called to stop it. He needs the poise to not allow it to affect what he wants to do.


The Raiders are ranked third in the league rushing, averaging 182.7 yards per game, 19th in league scoring, averaging 20 points per game, 21st in the league, averaging 303 total yards per game, 32nd in league passing, averaging 120.3 yards per game. JaMarcus Russell passed for 156 yards in Week Three.


QB JaMarcus Russell has shown a lot of progress this season, despite not putting up eyebrow-raising numbers. He has done a good job of protecting the football, managing the game well, and has yet to throw an interception this year.


The Raiders use the run as the foundation of their offense and attack the OLBs on the edges. They make Jamal Williams run to get involved in the rush defense.


This needs to be the week to give the young quarterback more than 19 pass attempts. The Bills stacked the box and showed an eight-man front on more than one occasion last week, and when it happens again—and it will—the Raiders need to attack downfield with play action.


The Raiders' WRs need to play a significant role, due to teams double-teaming TE Zach Miller often.



When the Chargers are on defense


The Chargers run a 3-4 defense and blitz often; however, this isn’t the same defense without OLB Shawne Merriman. OLB Shaun Phillips is seeing more double teams than he is accustomed to.


The Chargers defense is at its best with a healthy NT Jamal Williams and opposing teams attempting to attack the interior. The Chargers defense is ranked 29th in the league, allowing 31.3 points per game, 29th in the league, allowing 394 total yards, 31st in the league, allowing 284.7 yards passing, and 18th in the league, averaging 109.3 yards

rushing per game.


The Chargers' defense will look to shut down the Raiders' run game and limit their passing game. The team will also look to pressure JaMarcus Russell and blitz him as much as possible.  


The ironic thing is that both teams sport a 1-2 record going into this game, the uncertainty and "top down" distractions that have plagued the Oakland Raiders since January make it a more difficult game for the Raiders.



Key Matchups


Raiders' WRs against the Chargers' secondary


The Chargers are ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass, surrendering 284.7 yards per game. The Raiders need to attack the San Diego secondary.



L.T. against the Raiders' front seven


L.T. has always done well against the Raiders and averaged 125 yards a game against them. He is playing, but the toe injury has slowed him a bit and that has to potential to assist the Raiders in slowing him down.


They're multiple injured players on both teams, although the majority of these injured players will suit up.


I’d love to see the Raiders take it up a notch and score the upset. However, until proven otherwise, here is my assumption of the outcome.





Chargers 26 - Raiders 24