Michael Lombardo: For the Oakland Raiders, it seems like it's always one step forward and two steps back. Over the last two weeks, the team posted a huge road win over the division-leading Denver Broncos before coming back home and losing to the 1-10 Kansas City Chiefs. Why has this team struggled to find consistency?
Michael Wagaman: That can be attributed directly to the lack of consistency in coaching. Lane Kiffin was fired as head coach after four games; offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, who assumed the play-calling duties after Kiffin was axed, had those responsibilities stripped by interim head coach Tom Cable, meaning the Raiders have had three different people calling plays this season. That alone is a recipe for disaster. Throw in some very questionable coaching decisions in all three phases and it's no surprise the team is where it's at.
HC Tom Cable
MW: Had Oakland beat Kansas City last week, he might have had a better shot, but considering they not only lost but did it in such a bizarre way -- that fake field goal gaffe will go down as one of the dumbest calls in NFL lore -- probably sealed Cable's fate. More critically, the offense has done next to nothing since he took over and that alone should punch his ticket out of town.
ML: The Chargers made a trade deadline push to acquire RB Michael Bush. There is speculation those talks could be reignited in the offseason. What are your thoughts on Bush and what kind of role is he suited to play?
MW: I believe Michael Bush can be a prominent running back in the NFL, but the Raiders seem intent on trying to make him a fullback. Bush has been very resistant to the move and it's no wonder. When Lane Kiffin was head coach, Bush had a clearly defined role and would get a lot of time late in games when opposing defenses had tired down. Now he's lucky to see the field as Cable believes in sticking with the 1-2 punch of Justin Fargas and Darren McFadden. It wouldn't surprise me to see Oakland try to move him in the offseason, to clear up cap space and maybe try to get a few draft picks in exchange.
ML: TE Zach Miller had a big game against the Chargers last time out, but is listed as questionable with a groin injury. What's the latest on his status?
MW: Miller is expected to play. He was at the walkthrough on Wednesday and was not mentioned when Cable listed his injured players. That's a huge plus for Oakland as Miller has been the only consistent, reliable target for QB JaMarcus Russell. Though he often has to stay in to help with the pass protection, Miller has been a beast as a receiver and is second among NFL starting tight ends with a 14.9 yards-per-catch average.
ML: Who are the Raiders' top-three playmakers on special teams and what role will they play during Thursday's game?
MW: Johnnie Lee Higgins is probably at the top of the list. Oakland's second-year player has two punt returns for touchdown this season and is always a threat to take it the distance because of his breakaway speed. However, Higgins also makes questionable decisions at times, which is why he no longer returns kickoffs. The other two to look out for would be Jon Alston and Sebastian Janikowski. Alston has taken over as Oakland's top coverage guy on special teams while Janikowski remains the Raiders' best scoring threat as their offense continues to stumble. He can't run a fake field goal too well but that's not his fault.
ML: The Raiders have lost 10 consecutive games to the Chargers; however, San Diego comes in having lost six of its last eight. Can the Raiders snap the streak?
MW: I'd say no. Though the Chargers have been woefully unimpressive this season, Oakland hasn't shown any reason why they can end the streak now. The win over Denver looks like a hiccup more than anything and it's about the time of the season when the players on non-playoff teams start packing it in. That, coupled with LaDainian Tomlinson's history of success against the Raiders, leans the scales in San Diego's favor. The caveat is Oakland's defense. The Raiders have played well on that side of the ball at times, but the run defense has been inconsistent. If they can slow Tomlinson down, they have a shot. If he gets going early, it could get ugly.