Raiders-Chargers Preview

S&BI previews the Raiders Week 5 matchup against their AFC West rivals, the San Diego Chargers. The Raiders face perhaps their toughest game of the season thus far, and it's going to take a herculean effort to come out on top.

-- In Week 5 of the 2010 season, the Oakland Raiders host their rivals from the south, the San Diego Chargers.

-- Kickoff is set for 4:15 pm ET. The game will be available on CBS and the broadcast team will be Kevin Harlan and Solomon Wilcots.

-- Last week, the Raiders lost 31-24 to the Houston Texans. The Texans were led by Arian Foster's 131 yards and touchdown on the ground and 56 yards and one touchdown through the air.

-- Last week, the Chargers defeated the Arizona Cardinals, 41-10. Antonio Gates caught two touchdowns and finished with 144 yards receiving. Philip Rivers completed 15 of 20 passes for 241 yards. Mike Tolbert had 100 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Rookie running back Ryan Matthews returned from a Week 1 injury and finished with 55 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

-- The Raiders lost to the Cardinals in Week 3, 24-23. Not that it needs to be reminded, the Raiders lost that game on Janikowski's missed field goal in the game's final seconds.

-- The Raiders lead the all-time series at 54-44-2. However, the Chargers have dominated the series for the past seven years.

-- The Chargers have beaten the Raiders in 13 consecutive games, dating back to 2003. With one more win, the Chargers will tie the longest active win streak in a series. The New England Patriots have won 14 straight over the Buffalo Bills.

-- The last time the Raiders beat the Chargers was in Week 4 of the 2003 season. Paced by Rich Gannon's 348 yards and three touchdowns through the air, the Raiders won the game in overtime on Sebastian Janikowski's 46-yard field goal, 34-31.

-- Last year, the Chargers beat the Raiders 24-20 in Week 1 and 24-16 in Week 8.

-- The Chargers current streak includes six consecutive wins in Oakland-Alameda County Stadium.

-- This is the first division game of the season for the Raiders. This is the second division game for the Chargers. In Week 1, the Chargers feel to the Chiefs in Kansas City, in what was a Monday night game.

-- This is Norv Turner's fourth season as head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Since 2007, Turner has guided the Chargers to a 34-18 record and three consecutive division titles.

-- Of course, prior to his current position with the Chargers, Turner coached the Raiders from 2004 to 2005. Turner compiled a record of 9-23 with the Raiders.

-- This week's game will be Tom Cable's 33rd as head coach of the Raiders. That is one more than Turner's 32 games with the Raiders.

INJURIES

-- For the Raiders:

Out: RB Michael Bennett (hamstring), G Robert Gallery (hamstring), LB Travis Goethel (back), DT John Henderson (foot), LB Thomas Howard (knee), RB Darren McFadden (hamstring), WR Chaz Schilens (knee).

Questionable: LB Ricky Brown (hamstring), LB Quentin Groves (hamstring), CB Walter McFadden (hamstring), CB Jeremy Ware (ankle).

Probable:FS Hiram Eugene (hamstring), QB Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder), CB Chris Johnson (ankle), TE Zach Miller (hip).

-- For the Texans:

Out: LB Larry English (foot).

Doubtful: LB Brandon Siler, SS Darrell Stuckey (hamstring).

Questionable: G Louis Vasquez.

Probable: LB Antwan Applewhite, RB Ryan Matthews, LB Shawne Merriman.

RAIDERS OFFENSE VS CHARGERS DEFENSE

The Chargers defense ranks second in average yards per game at 238. Broken down between average rush yards and average pass yards allowed, they are seventh (80.3) and fourth (157.8), respectively.

This is an aggressive defense that likes to create havoc in the backfield and is adept at forcing turnovers. Already this year, the Chargers pass rush has gotten to opposing quarterbacks 15 times for sacks. Perhaps as a result of that pressure, the secondary has also picked off seven passes on the year.

So in other words, things don't look good for the Raiders.

With the offensive line being such an issue this year, especially in pass protection, it's hard to image that Bruce Gradkowsk will find any sort of comfort on Sunday.

To make matters worse, Darren McFadden is out for Sunday's game, so the Raiders offense loses its most dynamic element. Michael Bush is no slouch, but he does not have the same game breaking ability as McFadden. Since the Raiders do not have a threatening passing game, the Chargers are going to try and neutralize the running game and force the Raiders young receivers to make some big plays.

One thing that might help the Raiders cause is the injury bug that has hit the Chargers linebacking corp. Antwan Applewhite was the most recent Chargers linebacker to join the injury report. He is listed as probable, along with Shawne Merriman. Merriman was limited on Thursday, so it will be interesting to see how often and for how long he is used on Sunday. The Chargers will also be without inside linebacker Brandon Siler and last year's first round pick Larry English.

Advantage: CHARGERS

RAIDERS DEFENSE VS CHARGERS OFFENSE

If you haven't noticed, the Raiders rank third in the league in pass defense. But of course, that is thanks in large part to the second worst run defense in the league. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

If the Raiders looked overmatched on offense, it only gets worse on defense.

The Chargers come in averaging 450.8 yards per game on offense, good for first in the league. 318.5 of those yards come from the dynamic passing game, led by quarterback Philip Rivers.

Even without Vincent Jackson to throw to, Rivers has a fleet of receivers at his disposal. Malcolm Floyd is averaging 71.2 receiving yards per game, and at 6'5", he's a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators. Legedu Naanee, Buster Davis and Patrick Crayton round up the top four.

Of course, Rivers' favorite target in the passing game is none other than Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates. Gates has already hauled in 386 yards and six touchdowns this season. With a touchdown on Sunday, Gates will join Wesley Walls as the only tight ends in NFL history to have a touchdown reception in each of the first five games of a season. Last week against the Cardinals, Gates had a monster game: 144 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.

Despite the loss of LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers still rank tenth in the league in rushing offense. Surprisingly enough, Darren Sproles hasn't been much of a factor, as he has only compiled 70 yards on 16 carries.

Rookie Ryan Matthews was on a lot of preseason lists, but thus far has been slowed by injury. After missing Week 3 against the Seahawks, Matthews came back last weekend against the Cardinals, and had one touchdown and 55 yards rushing on only nine carries. He also had a reception that went for 13 yards.

The guy who has carried the load thus far has been Mike Tolbert. Tolbert is averaging 70.3 yards per game thus far, and is coming off a 100-yard rushing performance. Tolbert also has three touchdowns on the year.

Advantage: CHARGERS

SPECIAL TEAMS

While the Raiders can lay claim to the best punter in the league and the strongest leg for a kicker, the Chargers might have the best overall combination in kicker Nate Kaeding and punter Mike Scifres.

Kaeding is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, so should the Chargers get in field goal range, chalk it up as another three points.

Darren Sproles handles both kickoff and punt return duties. He has yet to break a big one, but he's a difficult cover given his diminutive size and ability to find holes and break through. So far, he's returned 11 kickoffs for 240 yards.

Along with Sproles, Patrick Crayton also handles kickoff return duties.

A recent bright spot for the Raiders has been the play of rookie Jacoby Ford. Ford had only returned nine kickoffs but has accumulated 229 yards. Ford is on the brink of breaking out and taking one back to the endzone. Johnnie Lee Higgins has struggled in the punt return game as he has looked hesitant with the ball, and is prone to going down with first contact.

Advantage: CHARGERS

OUTCOME & PREDICTION

Plain and simple, if the Raiders want to end the Chargers 13-game win streak in the series, they're going to have to do play smart and hope to force some turnovers. That means limiting drive-killing penalties, playing field position football on special teams and look to strip ball carriers.

The Chargers are among the NFL elites for a reason. The Raiders will be hard pressed to slow down one of the league's most versatile and explosive offenses. On offense, it's hard to imagine that the offensive line will suddenly have an epiphany against the Chargers aggressive play. Gradkowski will need to continue getting the ball out quickly and his receivers will have to do their best job yet of finding open spots for him to throw to.

Unfortunately, the odds are stacked up against the Silver and Black.

Chargers 34

Raiders 17

SB Report Top Stories