Inside the camps: Raiders at Chargers

One more day until the pumpkin gets carved on the Qualcomm playing field. Both teams are facing tough injuries that could limit the success they see on Sunday.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET
GAMEDATE: 10/31/04
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS, Gus Johnson, Brent Jones, Scott Kaplan
SERIES: 90th meeting. The Chargers capped their season with a 21-14 win over the Raiders last year, a game in which RB LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for a franchise-best 243 yards. Through 2001, the Raiders had won eight of the previous nine games. But in the last two years, the teams have split. The Raiders have far from Super memories of Qualcomm Stadium, as they lost 48-21 to former coach Jon Gruden and the Bucs here in Super Bowl XXXVII. The team hasn't been the same since.
2004 RANKINGS: Raiders: offense 18th (29th rush, 10th pass); defense 16th (23rd rush, 15th pass). Chargers: offense 17th (9th rush, 25th pass); defense 17th (2nd rush, 28th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Raiders' passing game started to click down the stretch last Sunday and will prove a tough test for the Chargers secondary. QB Kerry Collins will target CB Jamar Fletcher and Sammy Davis when the Chargers are in a nickel package. San Diego's 3-4 defensive front has been very strong against the run and the Raiders are expected to be without RB Tyrone Wheatley again. Expect the Chargers to attempt to bring pressure in an effort to force Collins into the mistakes that have plagued him since taking over as the starter. The Chargers got five receptions out of WR Keenan McCardell in his first game with the team and won't be afraid to let QB Drew Brees go downfield, especially if Raiders CB Charles Woodson can't go. RB LaDainian Tomlinson's groin has kept him from finishing the past four games, but backup Jesse Chatman has produced down the stretch in his absence. The problem, however, is Chatman may not make it into the game on Sunday as he is also hurting (toe).

FAST FACTS: Raiders: Lead series 54-32-2. ... Have lost 12 consecutive road games since winning at San Diego on Dec. 8, 2002. Chargers: RB LaDainian Tomlinson's 43 career rushing touchdowns is tied with Chuck Muncie for first place on the team's all-time list. ... Coach Marty Schottenheimer is 21-7 against the Raiders.

PREDICTION: Raiders 19-13

INSIDE THE CAMPS:

Chargers: Anyone smell a trap?

On the heels of the Rams losing to the Dolphins, and the Bengals defeating the Broncos, the Raiders trot into Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday looking to upend the Chargers' apple cart.

"We don't think it's a trap game," cornerback Quentin Jammer said. "But on any given Sunday the weakest team can beat the strongest team. You can't sleep on anybody in this league."

To keep the Chargers awake during team meetings this week, coach Marty Schottenheimer has driven home the importance of Sunday's game. And how not to let a 2-5 team sneak up on the 4-3 Chargers, much like the Dolphins and Bengals did in the upset wins, a point that Schottenheimer made to the team and the media.

There's no doubt the Chargers are feeling good about themselves. They have won three of their past four, and are above .500 in late October -- for an organization not making the playoffs since 1995, that's saying something.

That's why Schottenheimer has said it all week: "Yes, we're rolling. And yes, the Raiders have lost four straight. But do not over look them."

"We know it's going to be a tough, hard-nosed game," safety Jerry Wilson said. "It's the Raiders."

Raiders:
There are no rally caps in football. You can't turn a helmet inside out, after all. But there was a sheet of paper lying on the seats of each Oakland Raider player Wednesday.

It read: "11-5 -- nobody says we can't win nine straight."

The ploy may seem a bit hokey but it is true, the New England Patriots have done it -- and then some. The Boston Red Sox came close. They won eight straight. Beacons of light from the opposite coast? Stabs in the dark.

Nobody seemed to know who planted the messages in the locker room.

"I don't know who did it, but I frankly don't care ... because it is true," said one of the team's more experienced veterans, Ray Buchanan. "I've seen it.

"Once you get momentum going, there's no stopping you. when you walk on the field, you are not wondering if you are going to win the game, you are knowing you are going to win the game. It starts with one victory."

That is what the Raiders need as they limp into San Diego carrying a four game losing streak on their backs.

"I haven't seen it (the paper message) but was told about it, coach Norv Turner said. "It was generated by the players. You don't get on the right track until you win one.

"Everybody gets caught up in talking about nine weeks or the next few games or a bye coming up. Hey, we're getting ready for San Diego. We need to find a way."

"Nobody is looking at this as a down season," guard Brad Badger said. "We still have nine games left and if we play the way we think we are capable of playing, we will be in good shape."

"We're constantly getting better," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "That's the most important thing. But we can't get ahead of ourselves. We just have to win this week, then we can go on to the next week."

PERSONNEL NEWS:

Chargers:
-- It looks as if LDE Jacques Cesaire will start again instead of Adrian Dingle. Dingle practices, but can't guarantee coach Marty Schottenheimer his knee will hold up for an entire game.
-- Drayton Florence (ankle) won't go Sunday allowing Sammy Davis to return to the starting lineup.
-- WR/PR Tim Dwight (toe) didn't practice again on Friday and will be a gametime decision on Sunday. Kickoff return duties would fall to either Michael Turner or newcomer Bobby Shaw.
-- LB Steve Foley (knee) rested on Thursday. But he'll play Sunday.
-- RB LaDainian Tomlinson (groin) didn't practice on Thursday but was back in action on Friday – though he admitted he was not 100 percent. He'll definitely go Sunday, although it's not certain if he'll last four quarters.
-- RB Jesse Chatman was unable to go on Friday and the backup running back spot could be manned by rookie Michael Turner if Chatman sits this one out.

Raiders:
-- The latest addition to the Raiders' injury list is rookie RT Robert Gallery. He suffered a groin injury Wednesday, practiced on a limited basis Thursday and was listed as questionable.
-- If RT Robert Gallery is unable to play Sunday, Langston Walker would start in his spot.
-- After missing practice Wednesday, CB Charles Woodson (hip/knee) was back on the field Thursday although he did not take all snaps. Coach Norv Turner said he expected Woodson, who has been listed as doubtful, to play but that it could mean little or no duty as an occasional safety.
-- WR Alvis Whitted was expected to return kickoffs with Carlos Francis out and Doug Gabriel still feeling the effects of a hamstring strain, however he fell during practice and injured his hip and is now questionable.
-- LB Napoleon Harris was another mid-week addition to the injury report with a knee strain. He is questionable.
-- NT Ted Washington (ribs) practiced on a limited basis Thursday but remains doubtful.
-- RG Ron Stone made it through a second day of practice and seems likely to return to the lineup for the first time in four weeks although he is listed as doubtful.


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