Behind Enemy Lines: Chargers vs. Raiders I

Our experts, Mike Lombardo of SD Bolt Report and Denis Savage of Silver & Black Illustrated, break down Sunday's game between the Chargers and Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium. Let's start this three-part series with six questions from Mike to Denis.

Michael Lombardo: Through five weeks, the Raiders lead the league in rushing by a large margin. Coming off the bye, they add Dominic Rhodes to their backfield bounty. Can the Raiders keep up this torrid pace? How does their running game match up against the Chargers' big defensive front seven?

Denis Savage: LaMont Jordan suffered a setback on Wednesday and may not be able to go. Justin Fargas figures to be the feature back with Rhodes offering a different taste. The offensive line has played up to its talent but Fargas is not the runner that Jordan - or Rhodes - is. They will be able to get some yards, likely by attacking outside the tackles where the Chargers don't seem to be showing their usual team speed. If they have to work it inside, it will be a tall task and the yards will be tough.

ML: Daunte Culpepper sparked a comeback win in week three and won his first game as a starter in week four. What are your impressions of his play so far this season? His numbers have been sub-par but it's hard to argue with the results. How long does he stay a starter and how successful can the Raiders be with him at the helm?

DS: Head coach Lane Kiffin has asked Culpepper to manage the game and he has done just that. In the first game, he looked a little skittish to start but got his feet under him and began playing well. The playbook is expanding each week and Oakland will have to open the purse strings this week, rather than attacking the underneath routes. If he keeps winning, Culpepper will man the helm through the year. If he makes mistakes and Josh McCown is healthy, than we could see a change in quarterbacks. JaMarcus Russell will only see time if the Raiders are out of the running.

ML: Last season, the Raiders defense finished No. 3 in the league. Now, they are sitting at No. 26 and giving up 130 rushing yards per game. What is causing this regression? Can the Raiders frustrate the Chargers' offense the same way they did in week 12 last season?

DS: Derrick Burgess has not played much this season and the defensive line as a whole overachieved a year ago. While Gerard Warren has stepped up his play, the rest of the front seven has not been able to penetrate into the backfield. It is a big concern for Oakland this week and it will determine the outcome of the game. I think the Chargers win the trenches.

ML: The Raiders had an easy opening schedule, as their first four opponents have a combined 7-13 record. Is their first-place perch the result of a favorable schedule or are they really that much better than last season?

DS: They were better than they played a year ago and now are playing up to their capabilities in several areas. Consistent quarterback play is all this team needed to be competitive. At 2-2, claiming first place isn't a great feat. It has more to do with a watered down AFC West that lacks a winner - the Chargers included - and the Raiders could continue to sneak up and win games. They have been in position to win the games they have dropped and if they can stay close, which I expect they will in most of their games, you always have a chance.

ML: The Raiders have a couple of reclamation projects in Mike Williams and Gerard Warren. What have you seen in those two? Is there any chance that either -- or both -- plays up to his lofty draft status?

DS: Williams remains a bust. He has dropped several key passes already this season and has done nothing to make one believe he can be saved. The Raiders have brought in close to 15 wide receivers over the last two weeks - including Rod Gardner, Alvis Whitted, Corutney Roby and Bryan Gilmore. They will continue to look to make a change.

Warren has been terrific. He has been disruptive in the backfield and has pushed the pocket, shutting down throwing lanes for the opposition. He has also netted a few sacks - a great addition.

ML: What has Lane Kiffin done to rid Oakland of its losing culture so quickly? Is he the man that can finally stop the Raiders' coaching turnstile or is it too early to tell?

DS: This is a question that gets asked a lot. The answer is accountability. It is easy to say but hard to adhere to. Kiffin signed Donovin Darius and everyone instantly assumed he would start. When Kiffin found out he wasn't better than what the team had, Darius was removed. Each of the battles that took place during training camp was really a case of "let the best man who will help us win get the job."

It is never too early to tell. Norv Turner should have taught you guys that.

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