Countdown to Paydirt: vs. San Diego Chargers

The Oakland Raiders return home to play at O.Co Coliseum for the first time in four weeks.

Much has changed since Raider Nation last saw the Silver & Black at the Coliseum: Dennis Allen has been fired and Tony Sparano has been named the interim head coach; starting quarterback Derek Carr injured his knee and ankle; injuries have piled up (Nick Roach, Rod Streater, Tyvon Branch); and… the team is now 0-4.

Coming off of their bye with a new head coach, the Raiders hope they can start to right the ship by earning their first victory by defeating AFC West rivals San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

The Chargers are coming off of a dominating performance, beating the New York Jets 31-0 to move the team to 4-1 on the season.

San Diego’s defense has been one of the top-notch defenses in the league thus far, giving up just 12.6 points per game (best in the NFL).

The best place for the Raiders to attack the Chargers’ defense is with their rushing attack. Problem is, the Raiders have struggled to get the running game going. They have averaged just 61.5 yards per game, by far the worst in the NFL.

Sparano believes in the running game and knows he must get it going if he wants to turn this team around. Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden need to find a way to get the running game going.

Carr looks to be on pace to start the game, though Sparano hasn’t said if he will play or not. Carr said that it would take a lot for him to be held out of the game, and that he will just tape up the way he usually does, instead of wearing a brace. The Chargers currently hold the second-best pass defense in the league, giving up just 194.8 yards per game through the air.

With Rod Streater still out, it will be up to wide receivers James Jones, Andre Holmes and former Charger Vincent Brown to get open for Carr. The Raiders also acquired Kenbrell Thompkins this week, but it still remains to be seen if he will be active for the game.

The Raiders secondary will get tested playing against a red-hot Phillip Rivers. Rivers has already thrown for 1,443 yards and has completed 70.3 percent of his passes. Wide receivers Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and Malcolm Floyd all have big-play ability and will need the Raiders’ full attention.

Like the Raiders, San Diego has struggled to get the running game going for much of the season… until last week. The Chargers running game broke out in a big way, rushing for 162 yards against a tough Jets defense.

With Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown looking like they’ll be out again, it will be undrafted rookie Branden Oliver in the backfield for the Chargers again. Oliver is a little back with great quickness, much like Darren Sproles used to provide the team.

The Raiders’ revamped linebacking corps will have to make sure they maintain their gaps in order to limit Oliver’s yards per carry.

The Silver & Black will remain at home to take on the Arizona Cardinals next week.

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