Game Scout, Week 8: Chargers vs. Raiders

The San Diego Chargers look to improve to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the AFC West as they host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. We get ready for this division contest with fast facts, injury updates, predictions and more.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:05 ET
GAMEDATE: 11/01/09
SURFACE: Grass
TV: CBS (Dick Enberg, Dan Fouts)

SERIES: 100th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series 54-43-2. Chargers have won the last 12 games, including a 24-20 win in Week 1 in Oakland. Chargers won at home Dec. 4 of last season, 34-7. The last Raiders' win in San Diego was Dec. 8, 2002, as Rich Gannon completed 26 of 41 passes for 328 yards and Tyrone Wheatley and Charlie Garner rushed for touchdowns in 27-7 win.

PREDICTION: Chargers 27-13

KEYS TO THE GAME: Keeping the game close is mandatory for the Raiders, who don't have the passing game to come from behind. And it will be interesting to see how QB JaMarcus Russell rebounds after being pulled from last Sunday's game. San Diego's weakness is in defending the run, and that's where the Raiders will attack first in an effort to ease the burden on Russell. Chargers QB Philip Rivers completed five passes to each of four different receivers in San Diego's 24-20 victory at Oakland in Week 1. The passing game has only grown since then, so the Raiders will need to ratchet up the pass rush to keep the scoreboard manageable.

FAST FACTS: Raiders TE Zach Miller leads all NFL tight ends with 16.0 yards per reception. ... The Chargers have won the past 12 meetings.

PERSONNEL NEWS

Chargers:

--ILB Kevin Burnett (ankle) didn't work again Thursday and is down this week. The team is hopeful he can try to practice next week, but that might be an optimistic outlook.


DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo
Shana Siler/SDBoltReport.com
--DT Ogemdi Nwagbuo (ankle) didn't practice and is looking doubtful for Sunday. He was starting in place of Jamal Williams and will be replaced by Ian Scott.

--OLB Shawne Merriman (foot) was a limited participant but is expected to play Sunday.

--C Nick Hardwick (ankle) is getting limited work in practice but might still be a week or more from returning.

--DE Travis Johnson (groin) was a full participant. He will also be needed possibly on the inside rotation with Nwagbuo ailing.

--K Nate Kaeding is back healthy after being weakened by flu-like symptoms in the last game, which restricted his distance on kickoffs.

Raiders:

--WR Louis Murphy did not finish practice Thursday because of a hip injury and his status will be re-evaluated over the weekend heading into the San Diego game.

--CB Chris Johnson did not finish practice because of a groin injury and his status will be re-evaluated this weekend heading into the San Diego game.

--WR Chaz Schilens did not practice for the second straight day because of pain in his left foot, which was fractured 10 weeks ago, and is unlikely to play against San Diego. --LG Robert Gallery practiced for the second consecutive day after being out since Week 2 with a broken left fibula, but was not among the offensive line starters as announced by coach Tom Cable Thursday.

--QB Bruce Gradkowski, who was 10 of 19 for 97 yards in his debut last week in place of the benched JaMarcus Russell, missed his second consecutive day of practice with a stomach virus.

--LB Isaiah Ekijiuba, out since Monday with a stomach virus, returned and went through the entire practice without limitations and is expected to play against San Diego.

INSIDE THE CAMPS

Chargers:

The Chargers enter Sunday's key AFC West game against the visiting Raiders without inside linebacker Kevin Burnett.

But Tim Dobbins has shown he is more than a steady replacement.

With Burnett's ankle injury keeping him from last week's game and this week of practice, all eyes again turn to Dobbins.


LB Tim Dobbins
Doug Pensinger/Getty
Burnett was signed in the offseason and then outlasted Dobbins in a spirited camp battle for the starting role. But Dobbins didn't pout, kept doing his work on special teams and took advantage when given more playing time.

In the Chargers' 37-7 win over the Chiefs on Sunday, Dobbins had a team-high 11 tackles and his second career interception.

"He understands his opportunity," said Stephen Cooper, the Chargers' other inside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme.

"He's a great middle linebacker. He's stout; he's strong; he's fast.

"The biggest thing for him is just understanding the defense and that's what he's doing. He put himself in great position to make plays. He showed our coaches that he can go get the job done."

Dobbins, a fourth-year pro, isn't a big talker, and he doesn't pound his chest after making big plays. He's just a blue-collar guy looking to contribute to a defense that took it on the chin earlier this season but has recently shown some growth.

"We tell our guys regularly if you get the opportunity, make the most of it," coach Norv Turner said. "He played as well as I've seen him play."

Dobbins will need to be on his game Sunday in making his 10th NFL start. The Raiders figure to test the Chargers' run defense with their passing game struggling behind embattled quarterback JaMarcus Russell. How well Dobbins helps in containing running backs Michael Bush and Justin Fargas will help determine if the Chargers can get back in the AFC West race.

Raiders:

The Raiders are back in their usual spot near the bottom of the NFL in rushing defense.

Having given up 316 yards to the New York Jets -- the second-highest total allowed in franchise history and the most ever allowed by the team in a home game -- Raiders coach Tom Cable looked no further than a reporter sitting in a chair in an attempt to explain what went wrong.

"With that many tackles and alignment issues, it's easy to see why," Cable said. "When you're playing in a single-gap defense, it's like you sitting in that chair. That's all you have to do right now, just keep your butt in that chair and everything will be fine.

"We just didn't do a very good job of that."

The Raiders are ranked 30th in rushing defense (169.7), having given up 62 rushing first downs (only Cleveland has surrendered more) and 11 rushing touchdowns, tied with St. Louis for the most in the NFL.

Cable believes players are overcompensating, coming out of their designated gaps in attempt to make a play, and that it's hurting the overall run defense.

Defenders, Cable said, think, 'I'm going to do this because I think I see it,' and then wind up seeing a back fly through the vacated gap."

Defensive end Richard Seymour, having never been part of a defense this forgiving against the run in New England, thinks the problem is more basic.

"We have to do a better job of tackling," Seymour said. "That's the main issue. Guys were in the right gaps and we didn't tackle well."

Seymour's solution was something almost unheard with an NFL team during the season.

"Maybe we make practice live, I don't know," Seymour said.

Cable said it hasn't gotten to the point that the Raiders would risk injury with a live practice with full tackling, but that he'd consider it.

In the meantime, a San Diego offense ranked 31st in rushing (70.5 points per game) could offer a respite. The Raiders beat Philadelphia 13-9 the previous week, with the Eagles abandoning the run early.

San Diego has beaten Oakland 12 straight times -- tied for the longest ongoing streak in the NFL; New England has beaten Buffalo 12 straight times -- but through much of it has dominated with the run.

Cable looks at the numbers and figures there's a chance the Chargers could look to re-establish the running game Sunday.

"Based on what we've been through a couple of times now in terms of run defense, we'd be fools not to think they would try and run it," Cable said.


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