Raiders will make Chargers work

A lot has changed since the Chargers beat the Raiders 27-0 on opening night. Philip Rivers has gone from an enigma to an icon, the Bolts have gone from a grind-it-out defensive team to the league's most explosive offensive ensemble, and the Raiders have gone from a group of underachieving veterans and baffling draft picks to…2-8.

"They came in here and pushed us around," Raiders guard Barry Sims said.

"We did not do the things we normally do against a running football team, which is get off blocks and make the tackle," Raiders head coach Art Shell said of the first meeting. "We didn't do a good job with our front seven. Our line and linebackers need to be better. With a running back who is fast and explosive, you need more people around him to make the play."

Despite Oakland's struggles, there is every reason to believe the Raiders will make the Chargers earn everything they get this weekend. The Raiders defense is currently No. 8 in the league, despite the fact that their offense is No. 29 in time of possession.

Several defensive players have made the turnaround possible. Kirk Morrison, Stuart Schweigert and Thomas Howard are all on pace to finish the season with over 100 tackles. Also, cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington have combined for seven interceptions on a Raiders team that only picked off five passes in 2005. Then there is Warren Sapp, who already has six sacks this season, the most he has posted since 2002.

This defensive resurgence has the Raiders playing competitive ball as of late. The Raiders lost their last two games to division rivals Denver and Kansas City, but fell by just four points on each occasion.

"Oakland is coming in and could have won the last three," Philip Rivers said. "We have to be ready. You watch these guys and see what they have done – defensively they are the top in the league."

But with all that in mind, there are still plenty of reasons why the Raiders are heavy underdogs heading into this contest. Their offense is statistically the league's worst unit, and those numbers don't do justice to its impotence. LaDainian Tomlinson has scored twice as many touchdowns as the entire Raiders squad.

This seems to be a horrible match-up for the Raiders. They lack the offensive firepower to take advantage of a Chargers defense which will be playing shorthanded once gain. And although their defense has been playing well, it doesn't appear that any defense can stop San Diego, the league's highest scoring team.

The Chargers will certainly not look past the Raiders. Coach Marty Schottenheimer's squad is well versed in the importance of staying focused during Raider Week.

"This team is a pretty focused team," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "Marty always reminds us it is one game at a time. Our coaching staff does a really good job of getting us ready for the next game and making us feel like last game was last game and it doesn't mean anything."

On Sunday, the Chargers will go for their seventh consecutive win over the Raiders. They'll probably get it, but they'll definitely have to work for it.

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