But the Chargers aren't taking the Raiders lightly -- not that their fans would ever allow it. To this day, the Chargers-Raiders game still carries with it the biggest buzz on the schedule. And running back LaDainian Tomlinson said the Raiders are on the rise.
"Oh yeah, definitely they are doing some things well," Tomlinson said. "They are not beating themselves any more -- you got to beat them."
Tomlinson is among the reasons the Chargers have had their way with the Raiders. He has rushed for more yards (1,709) against Oakland than any other foe.
His resume against Oakland also shows five games in which he has scored multiple touchdowns. Among those outings was a four-touchdown game in last year's win at Qualcomm Stadium. Overall, Tomlinson has 19 touchdowns with the Raiders as the opponent -- more than any other team.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson
But he expects a tough battle Sunday with the Chargers trying to get back in the AFC West.
"It's going to be a good one," Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson speculated the Raiders could be distracted regarding the off-the-field drama with the front office and coaching staff.
"You just hope it stays as dysfunctional as possible," Tomlinson said. "You hope it does."
The Chargers hope to stay hot against the Raiders. If so, it would help lessen what to date has been a slow start for the two-time defending AFC West champions.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They got some talent over there now." -- RB LaDainian Tomlinson, on the improving Raiders.
TRENDING: The Chargers are acknowledging the time is catching up with defensive tackle Jamal Williams. They are getting Ryon Bingham and Brandon McKinney onto the field more. Williams, a three-time Pro Bowler, had both knees scoped in the offseason and hasn't played to his usual level. Bingham supplies a push from the inside on passing downs and McKinney is more of a run-stopper of the two. But without Williams playing well on running downs, the defense has put offenses in as many obvious passing situations as last year. That -- along with the season-ending knee injury suffered by Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shawne Merriman -- has meant few turnovers from the secondary based on a stout pass rush.
LINEUP WATCH: Center Nick Hardwick is getting closer to returning after his offseason foot injury. Veteran Jeremy Newberry has been filling in for Hardwick.
UNDER THE RADAR: Inside linebacker Tim Dobbins is cutting into the playing time of starter Matt Wilhelm. Dobbins was overmatched at times last year but has seen his game grow.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2003 -- Last time the Chargers lost to the Raiders in Oakland, 34-31, in overtime.
--Buster Davis, the team's top pick last year, has taken over the punt-return duties from Darren Sproles, as Sproles' impact on the regular offense is increasing.
--LT Marcus McNeill is going to be eased back in the rotation after a neck injury derailed his training camp and first part of the regular season.
--WR Legedu Naanee is getting more looks at wide receiver, leapfrogging Buster Davis as the team's No. 3 wideout.
--ILB Stephen Cooper has one game remaining in his four-game suspension.
--DE Igor Olshansky is in his contract year and there has been no early talk about an extension.