Bolts Notebook: Raider Week

Can an injury-ravaged offensive line grind out another masterful performance? Will the defense contain Terrelle Pryor? Do the Bolts have what it takes to avoid a Black Hole in the standings? These answers and more inside this week's Bolts Notebook.

Monster MASH

San Diego's offensive line earned high praise last week when three backups filled in and helped the offense churn out over 500 total yards. It will take a similar effort to bring the Chargers their first back-to-back wins of the season.

RG Jeromey Clary (clavicle) returned to practice this week and is questionable. King Dunlap (concussion) is out and LG Chad Rinehart (toe) is doubtful. Even backup Rich Ohrnberger (groin) is questionable after sitting out most of the work week. That means Mike Harris and Johnnie Troutman are in line to start again and Steve Schilling and Nick Becton must be ready to play.

The Black Hole is a tough place for young offensive linemen to play. The raucous home crowd makes it tough to hear the snap count -- and the late start may make the crowd even more raucous (read: drunk) than usual. It will be a major test for the unit keying Philip Rivers' resurgence.

You Can't Run!

The "You can't run!" chant was a staple of Chargers fans back when John Parrella and Jamal Williams were anchoring the middle of the defense. While those days are long gone, "you can't run" should be the mantra again this week in Oakland.

It does not refer to explosive RB Darren McFadden, who is expected to miss the game with a hamstring injury. Instead, it refers to QB Terrelle Pryor, who is back after sitting out last week with a concussion. The Chargers have long struggled with mobile quarterbacks -- their inability to contain Jake Locker in Week 3 cost them a certain win. That cannot happen again this week.

Pryor is an explosive runner. He has 198 rushing yards in three games, averaging about 10 more rushing yards per game than Ryan Mathews. John Pagano's men must contain Pryor and make him deliver while in the pocket. In last season's finale, Pryor completed less than half of his passes against the Chargers and was picked off in the end zone.

Too Early for a Must-Win?

No one is calling this a must-win for the Chargers, but this is a game San Diego cannot afford to lose. Not when it shares a division with two of the NFL's five unbeaten teams. This is the Bolts' first division game -- the next one does not come till Week 10 -- and it is vital Mike McCoy's troops do well in the AFC West if they hope to catch up to the front-runners in Denver and Kansas City.

Assuming the Chargers are resigned to chasing a wild card berth (only the staunchest of homers believes this team can catch the Broncos), they are likely competing with the following teams for two openings: the Dolphins, Bengals, Browns, Texans, Titans and Chiefs. Kansas City, Miami, Cleveland and Tennessee all boast winning records, so dropping back below .500 would be bad news bears for the Bolts.

What are Chargers fans saying about Raider Week? See in the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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