Game Scout: Chargers vs. Raiders

The Chargers end their season in Oakland and the AFC West title is up for grabs ... only San Diego isn't in contention. Norv Turner -- in what will likely be his final game as head coach -- will try to submarine his former team as the Raiders and Broncos seek the divisional crown.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 12/25/11
SURFACE: Natural grass
TV: CBS, Marv Albert, Rich Gannon

PREDICTION: Raiders 27-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: Will the Chargers relish the opportunity to play spoiler, or will their lackluster season conclude on the same note? Chargers RB Ryan Mathews is a big key with QB Philip Rivers' continued struggles with turnovers behind a depleted offensive line. Mathews can also help control the clock a bit after San Diego's secondary was blitzed for 299 yards and three completions of 40-plus yards in the first meeting. However, RB Michael Bush is wearing down from a heavy workload since Darren McFadden went down to a foot injury, and QB Carson Palmer might not have the luxury of such an effective play-action attack in the rematch.

FAST FACTS: Rivers needs 186 passing yards to become the fifth player in NFL history with 4,500-plus yards in consecutive seasons. ... Oakland has 155 penalties. The NFL single-season record is 158 by the 1998 Chiefs.



The Chargers first have a season-ending game Sunday in Oakland, as they attempt to finish .500 and ruin the Raiders' chances of making the playoffs.

Then an offseason of change begins, with the status of general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner at the top of list.

But it is also possible the Chargers will be looking at rebuilding three-fifths of their front line.

Center Nick Hardwick told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he is considering retirement after the season. Hardwick is set to become an unrestricted free agent, but the pounding his body is taking might not be worth it.

Pro Bowlers Marcus McNeill and Kris Dielman's return next year are also questionable. McNeill, out with a neck injury, has battled spinal issues since college.

Dielman has had a series of concussions that has him questioning his future.

So while the focus remains on Sunday, with the Chargers looking to avoid their first losing season since 2003, the not-so-distant future could become more clouded with the question marks along the offensive line.

Only Hardwick is playing Sunday, as McNeill and Dielman have already landed on injured reserve. The Chargers are hoping Hardwick has company in returning next season, but that remains to be seen.

Hardwick is a key part of Sunday's game plan as the Chargers will have to neutralize tackle Richard Seymour. Hardwick and Seymour have had some epics battles in previous games -- some when Seymour was in New England -- and that matchup is worth watching on Sunday.


When the Raiders dealt a portion of their future to acquire Carson Palmer, they did it with Sunday in mind.

The Raiders, 8-7, can reach the post-season if things break the right way, and they're counting on Palmer to lead them there.

Palmer was acquired on Oct. 18, two days after starting quarterback Jason Campbell suffered a broken right collarbone against the Cleveland Browns.

Oakland's options? Either play out the string with backup Kyle Boller, or go find a quarterback currently out of a job.

Coach Hue Jackson, after consulting with team owner Mark Davis and Amy Trask, landed Palmer in a blockbuster deal from the Cincinnati Bengals. Palmer had promised to sit out the season rather than return to Cincinnati, feeling it was time for a change.

Although team president Mike Brown was reluctant to deal Palmer, who was under contract, the Raiders offered him a first-round pick in 2012 and a conditional second-round pick in 2013 that could upgrade to a No. 1 should the Raiders reach the AFC title game.

"That's why we made the trade, to have this opportunity," Jackson said."If not, then why do it? It's about winning."

Palmer understands the pressure placed upon him. It goes with the territory.

"Pressure is part of the position," Palmer said. "I've been playing for a long time. It doesn't need to be said to me by the coach. I understand that."

The Raiders are 4-5 since trading for Palmer and 4-4 with him as the starter. He's thrown 15 interceptions in 285 attempts (and 11 touchdown passes), the highest percentage of his career.

He had two more in the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs, but a pair of deep strikes led the way to victory. Palmer threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Moore and a 53-yard strike to Darrius Heyward-Bey in overtime that set up a game-winning 36-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski.

Having been on two division winning teams in Cincinnati, Palmer, who turned 32 this week, hopes to maintain an even keel to keep the young players from trying to do too much.

"I don't think you make too big a deal of it," Palmer said. "It's another game,. All games are important. All games we need to win. Especially with young guys who don't have a lot of experience, you don't want to freak anyone out or make people think you need to play differently or make a spectacular play or do something out of the ordinary."



--OLB Travis LaBoy (knee) has yet to practice this week after missing Saturday's game. It doesn't appear he will go on Sunday.

--WR Vincent Jackson (groin) is still sidelined after gingerly getting through the last game. With the Chargers out of the playoff picture and Jackson soon to be an unrestricted free agent, he could sit on Sunday. If he goes, he won't be near 100 percent.

--RB Ryan Mathews (calf) was a limited participant, working for the first time this week. He should be able to start Sunday, but might not finish the game.

--RB Mike Tolbert (hamstring) didn't practice again Thursday and his status is looking cloudy for Sunday.

--OLB Shaun Phillips (back) was a limited participant. He should be able to start Sunday.

--LB Andrew Gachkar (hamstring) was a full participant and should contribute on special teams Sunday.

--LT Jared Gaither (ankle) took all the practice snaps for the second straight day and is a go for Sunday.


--DT Richard Seymour returned to practice after being out with an illness.

--WR Jacoby Ford practiced for the second consecutive day and could play against San Diego.

--FS Michael Huff practiced for the second straight day and could play against San Diego.

--DT John Henderson did not practice with a knee injury and is not expected to face San Diego.

--RB Taiwan Jones practiced for the second straight day but has yet to "cut loose" according to coach Hue Jackson.

SD Super Chargers Top Stories