Behind Enemy Lines: Bolts v. Raiders, Part I

The Chargers return home after their bye week looking to snap a three-game losing streak. The Raiders, who have yet to taste victory this season, would love nothing more than to pin another loss on their division rivals. To prepare for this AFC West rematch, check out this Q&A between Scout.com team experts Michael Lombardo and Chris McClain. (Photo by Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports)

Chris McClain is the lead reporter for Silver & Black Report. Michael Lombardo is the publisher of SD Bolt Report.

Michael Lombardo: The Raiders looked ready to turn things around the last time they faced the Chargers, pushing San Diego to the brink. But Oakland has not been able to crack the win column since. Have all the losses started to sap the fight from this team?

Chris McClain: It does seem like the losses have started to weigh on the team a little bit. That said, the team has shown that they will continue fighting until the clock reads 0:00. While the team is not proud with their record and not happy with their performance, I haven't seen any difference from them in regards to effort on the field. That is one thing that head coach Tony Sparano seems to be doing well -- keeping the team motivated to fight as hard as possible each week.

It will be interesting to see how much it weighs on the team if the losses keep piling up as we head towards the final stretch of the season.

ML: Derek Carr threw four touchdowns in his first meeting with the Chargers, but has just nine TDs and eight INTs in his eight other games. What do you make of his progress? Is it enough to dissuade the Raiders from picking a quarterback at the top of draft?

CM: That last game against the Chargers was likely Derek Carr's best game in the NFL thus far. I believe that Carr has played well enough to dissuade the Raiders from selecting a quarterback with what looks like will be a high draft pick.

Despite not having a great touchdown-to-interception ratio (13 TDs, 9 INTs) or yards per completion, he is completing 61.1 percent of his passes as a rookie. Carr was also one of the Raiders' top prospects heading into the draft, along with an apparent favorite of Mark Davis, making it more likely that they will move forward with him for the near future.

This would give the Raiders the ability to give him some much-needed weapons around him, a defensive play-maker or trade the pick for more ammo in the draft like the Rams did with the Robert Griffin III pick.

ML: The Chargers will try to establish the running game, especially with Ryan Mathews coming back from injury. But the Raiders have been underrated against the run, allowing just 3.8 ypc (No. 8 in the league). Do you think this particular match-up will decide the outcome of Sunday's game? If not, what will?

CM: The Raiders have been very good against the run as of late. The Raiders will certainly look to stop the Chargers running game as it will help make Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense more one-dimensional.

While that will lead to the Raiders ability to stay in the game, the Raiders offense needs to perform much better than it did last week against the Denver Broncos. They must have the ability to make first downs and move the ball or else the Raiders defense will be on the field too long, just as they were last week against the Broncos.

ML: What are your thoughts on first-round pick Khalil Mack? Has he lived up to the hype? And is he someone the Raiders believe they can rebuild their defense around?

CM: Khalil Mack has played very well this season, despite not having a recorded sack. He has shown the ability to get to the quarterback and apply pressure. He has also drawn penalties, such as holding, from the opposing offensive lines.

The young linebacker has certainly shown the Raiders that he can be a play-maker moving forward for the Silver & Black and that they can build around him. He has especially been strong against the run, racking up 40 tackles.

ML: Has Tony Sparano done enough as the interim head coach to earn serious consideration for the full-time job?

CM: I think Mark Davis and GM Reggie McKenzie (if he keeps his job) will consider Tony Sparano for the full-time job based on how he has gotten the team to play since taking over. That said, I don't think he will be the one chosen to be the full-time head coach as I think Mark Davis will want to go a different direction with the organization.

BONUS QUESTION: What is your prediction for Sunday's game? If you have the Chargers winning, when do you see the Raiders getting their first victory of the season?

CM: The Raiders always find a way to play the Chargers hard, but I think the Chargers will once again pull this one out with it being in San Diego.

It's tough to say when the Raiders will pick up their first victory, assuming they fall this week. They have not benefited at all from a really difficult schedule this season. A lot of Raider Nation is pointing to the home game against the Buffalo Bills in Week 16, but the Bills have looked good as of late. I think the most "winnable" game left in the schedule may against the Rams at the end of this month.

The Raiders may also play the Chiefs tough at home, along with the 49ers, but they are both solid teams so it's tough to say what may happen.



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