San Diego Chargers vs Oakland Raiders: The Rivalry Is Back, Part 1
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So if you've ever read anything I've written, there's probably a jab at either the Oakland Raiders or one of their fans. I go to the barber shop, it's Raider Nation all day. I step out my front door, Raider jerseys are everywhere. I walk into the Nike outlet, the employees are pulling on my Chargers jersey saying "we need to fix this."
Yes, I live in a Raider town. The San Francisco 49ers get no love out here. The Chargers? Forget about it.
Now that the Raiders have won two games straight against the Chargers and have swept the AFC West, bellies are being sucked in, chests being stuck out and mouths are roaring.
And I still don't take the Raiders seriously.
However, let's explore the steps that the Chargers need to take in order to send the Raiders back to their hole.
Keep Richard Seymour at bay
If there is one single player responsible for keeping the Chargers out of the Super Bowl, it's Seymour. He has a nasty attitude and has been feuding with the Chargers since his days with the New England Patriots.
A few years ago, I wrote a comment taunting the Raiders for not having a guy that could physically go toe to toe with Chargers. While talking head were criticizing the Raiders for trading for Seymour, I was sitting next to a bottle of Jack with no glass in sight.
I knew it was a great move for the Raiders.
Seymour has been so physical with the Chargers, that he even slapped up the Bolts' equipment manager before a playoff game.
What a jerk. I haven't hated a player this much since "Fat Ass" Chester McGlockton.
Now it is up to general manager AJ Smith to bring in a guy who can whip Seymour's behind. Seymour's personal record against the Chargers is 4-5 in the regular season, but 2-0 in the playoffs.
Seymour is used to winning against the Bolts.
Run the Ball Better
The Raiders couldn't stop anyone from running the ball last season, until they played the Chargers. The Chargers found themselves on the other side of their classic "you can't run, you can't run" chant.
Without Antonio Gates, Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd or Patrick Crayton, they couldn't throw the ball against the Raiders either.
What is more important for the Chargers in their quest to beat the Raiders?
Ryan Mathews needs to stay healthy, and both he and Mike Tolbert need to stop fumbling the ball every game.
Look for fullback Jacob Hester to put on a little more grown man weight now that he's turned 26 years old. Hester's increasingly physical play should lead to more running room this season.
Man Up Against Physical Running Backs
The Chargers defense completely dominated the competition all season long, unless their opponent had a big, physical running back. The Raiders just happen to have a couple of those big guys and they romped against the Chargers last season much to my barber and mother's delight.
With the Chargers, it all starts with stopping the run. When teams can't run the ball against the Chargers, they can't pass either.
Look at non-running team's quarterbacks against the Chargers. League leaders become pedestrian.
On the other hand, teams that could run the ball had tremendous success throw the ball.
The Vince Young led Tennessee Titans were the only team that passed for more than 300 yards against the Chargers last season. Even though Titans star running back Chris Johnson ran for very few yards, the Chargers defensive backs spent the whole game making sure he didn't get the ball before bothering with wide receivers.
The Houston Texans looked unstoppable with Arian Foster running wild with more than 100 yards rushing in the first half against the Chargers, before Houston ultimately remembered they were the Texans and gave the game away at the end.
Sam Bradford looked like Trent Dilfer winning a Super Bowl, because the Chargers couldn't come close to slowing down the over-sized Steven Jackson who easily rushed for more than 100 yards.
Jason Campbell continued his Charger onslaught from his Washington Redskins days, because the Raiders deployed two extra large running backs in Michael Bush and Darren McFadden that the Bolts couldn't contain with each running for over 100 yards in separate games against the Bolts.
The Chargers will likely replace the aging Stephen Cooper at inside linebacker with the fresh legs of Donald Butler. While veteran Jacques Cesaire will be replaced in the starting lineup by first round pick Corey Liuget at defensive end.
The Chargers better hope their young lions Liuget, Butler, Brandon Siler, Vaughn Martin and Cam Thomas are ready to step in and stop the run, because the Kansas City Chiefs and Raiders are coming to run them out of the stadium if they aren't.
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