Chargers-Raiders preview

This is a matchup of teams that are on the opposite end of the spectrum even more so than most people believed before the 2004 season began. Only one side, however, hopes the outcome of Sunday's game is on the opposite end of the spectrum as the first meeting – and that's the Oakland Raiders.

Three weeks ago, these two teams met in San Diego with the Chargers embarrassing the Oakland Raiders 42-14. The two clubs meet in Oakland on Sunday.

The Raiders made a lot of headline-making moves in the offseason but, despite the good feeling of their Nov. 7 win over Carolina (27-24), all it has gotten them is a 3-6 record. The San Diego Chargers, also coming off a bye week, are a team that very few people expected to be in the mix but here come the Chargers with a 6-3 record and tied for first place in the AFC West leading Denver Broncos.

Here's a closer look at Sunday's matchup:

Raiders on offense: Despite throwing an interception against no touchdowns against Carolina, quarterback Kerry Collins was much more calculated in taking his chances last week with the vertical passing game.

Oakland is hoping that running back Tyrone Wheatley's return to the lineup takes some pressure off Collins. The Chargers are allowing the second fewest rushing yards per game while the Raiders are generating the fourth fewest.

Rookie right tackle Robert Gallery has been a bright spot. The Chargers hiring of Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator means the Raiders will face a base 3-4.

Chargers on offense: Any, Marty Schottenheimer offense is going to rely on ball-control and field position. It begins and ends with running back LaDainian Tomlinson but the Raiders might want to pay some kind of attention to tight end Antonio Gates, something they did not do in the first meeting. Throw in the fact that he has one of the best blocking fullbacks in Lorenzo Neal and you have a tough day. The Raiders defense against the run has been checkered and will have to be at its best to slow down Tomlinson, who might be the best all-around back in the entire NFL.

Perhaps the biggest difference for San Diego has been the improved play of quarterback Drew Brees. The San Diego receivers are nothing to write home about but Brees has two constant security blankets to throw to in Tomlinson and Gates.

Special Teams: The Raiders coverage units have been, for the most part, less of a problem under position coach Joe Avezzano but Oakland is still having issues with untimely penalties and turnovers.

Bottom line: This is another throw out the records rivalry as these two teams typically play tightly contested battles. Couple that with the fact that the Raiders probably have not forgotten the Halloween horror show in San Diego. The Raiders showed they were not quitters but can they put together two wins in a row?

Vince D'Adamo can be reached at vdad7@yahoo.com


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