The Raiders head back out on the road as they come off of their bye week at a disappointing record of 2-3, after dropping their last two games which certainly appeared winnable.
The Raiders fell to the Denver Broncos in week five in what appeared to be a winnable game but quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders offense was unable to get the ball rolling in the second half. The week prior, the Raiders fell on the road to the Chicago Bears to a last-second field goal in a game filled with miscues.
The Raiders need to limit the amount of costly mistakes that they have had this year, as they go against a San Diego Chargers defense that will look to make big plays and get the home crowd energized early.
San Diego boasts the NFL’s 7th-best passing defense this season, allowing just 221.8 passing yards per game this season.
Second-year quarterback Derek Carr will look to get his rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper going early, who has started the season strong. But offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave must make better second-half adjustments than he did in the first five weeks. This should include getting his big rookie tight end Clive Walford going. Walford had a stellar offseason, but has just three receptions for 38 yards on just six targets. Walford is a solid pass catcher than can be a key weapon for the offense.
Conversely, the Raiders have a chance to attack the Chargers on the ground who are allowing 132.5 rushing yards per game, and over five yards a carry. It is a good opportunity for running back Latavius Murray to get back on track after struggling against Chicago, and then seeing the field for just a brief stint against the Broncos.
It looks as if Musgrave will get speedster Taiwan Jones back who has missed the last two weeks with a foot injury. Having Jones back gives the Raiders a solid change-of-pace back that can get to the outside easily. He is also a solid pass catcher that can spread out wide in the passing game.
The Raiders secondary will get another tough test as Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers continues to play at a high level in his 12th NFL season. The veteran has already completed 177-of-253 passes for 2,116 yards with 12 touchdowns.
Cornerback DJ Hayden and the secondary will have to hone in on former Cal alum Keenan Allen if he plays, who has become Rivers’ favorite target hauling in a team-leading 53 passes for over 600 yards and three touchdowns.
That said, Rivers did get one of his all-time favorite targets back two weeks ago in tight end Antonio Gates who missed the first four weeks due to suspension. Gates and Rivers never skipped a beat, as the tight end already has 18 receptions for 187 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders’ struggles defending opposing tight ends this year has been widely documented, but there’s no doubt that veteran Charles Woodson and the secondary need to hone in on Gates, who has a history of success against the Raiders.
The Chargers’ rushing attack has struggled as of late and first-round draft pick Melvin Gordon was benched last week after two fumbles against the Packers. He does lead the team with 78 attempts for 299 yards (3.7 avg.), but has not gotten into the end zone yet. Meanwhile, dual-threat running back Danny Woodhead has two rushing touchdowns while contributing 26 receptions in the passing game. The Raiders linebackers will have to keep a close eye on Woodhead when he’s in the game as he’s always capable of taking a dumpoff pass for a big gain.
The Raiders will return home next week to host the New York Jets at O.Co Coliseum.