In both Week 1 and Week 8, the Raiders will face-off versus the Chargers for what's bound to be an "electrifying" couple of games (pun was totally intended). So how do these two teams match up? Let's take a peek and see.
Chargers Rushing Offense vs. Raiders Run Defense
There is no reason the Chargers should not run against the Raiders in this game. Stats speak for themselves, and while San Diego's running game wasn't it's usual self (ranked 20th), it didn't really have to be with how good of a passing offense they had. But when they have to run, they do so well. i think this year you can expect a near 50-50 split in carries for LT and Sproles to keep Tomlinson fresh and healthy. If Sproles continues to play at the level he did last year, this could be a great running back tandem. Guess it really depends on how Tomlinson will play now that he's 30. My guess, still pretty well.
The San Diego offensive line combined with the talent of the running backs will pretty much dominate Oakland's weak run defense. Though it will be interesting to see if this "getting back to fundamentals" style of Marshall's D can get linebackers Howard and Morrison to perform better in the running game. It'll also be interesting to see how Kelly plays this year now that he's healed up from knee surgery last offseason. This Raiders run-D needs to bring their A-game if they're going to stop LT.
Overall, San Diego's great O-Line will be too much for a weak Raider's D-Line to handle. Unless LT really slows down and the Raiders play like they did in Week 4 last year all game long, this is a no-brainer. San Diego wins this match up big-time.
Result: San Diego win matchup
Raiders Rushing Offense vs. Chargers Run Defense
The Raiders may find it difficult to run against the Chargers. With Satele having to work against an elite NT in Jamal Williams, things could be problematic in the middle. Add in new linebacker Burnett and the return of Merriman to the 11th. ranked Chargers run defense and Oakland may have met its match. Though I give a Oakland a very slight edge for these reasons.
- Lorenzo Neal is a great lead blocker and despite limited time in Baltimore with McClain getting a lot of action at FB, proved he's still a great blocker. There's also Oren O'Neal who is also a great run blocker. Whoever starts at FB will give Oakland practically an extra offensive tackle.
- Two tight end sets will be extremely effective in Oakland with Myers and Miller both good blockers.
- McFadden and Bush both have another year under their already talented belts and both are healthy.
The run game was already top-10 last year, and now it's much more improved into what should be a top-5 unit. Though that Chargers run-D has seen itself improve, it won't be enough improvement to contain Oakland's ground attack.
Result: Raiders win matchup
Chargers Pass Attack vs. Raiders Pass Defense
Though San Diego had the #8 pass offense last year, I think they'll have a hard time passing against the Raiders. With a trio of great corners in Nnamdi, CJ, and Routt; Jackson, Chambers, and Floyd will have a tough time getting open. Then there's also the great coverage linebackers Howard and Morrison. Heck, even Brown isn't too shabby in that regard. Antonio Gates is the only real problem. I think you'll see a coverage rotation of Nnamdi, Morrison, and the safeties on him. All three should cause some problems (if Eugene covers Gates they will), but Gates is very hard to account for on defense. Though I think he and Jackson should be the only major threats amongst the primary receivers.
But what of the running backs? After all Tomlinson and Sproles are both dynamic in the passing game. Howard's speed should be the X-factor on the Raiders pass defense to deal with them. If Howard can go stride for stride with McFadden, an aging LT and Sproles shouldn't be too much of a problem. But it's definitely something to watch for.
The one big factor that makes this matchup a decisive victory for Oakland, the pass rush. It doesn't matter how good that O-Line is, the Raiders were I believe a top-5 pressure team last year and their D-Line was in the top-3 in sacks. If Oakland would blitz then this would be a no-brainer Oakland matchup victory. But even without, the combination of Scott (tied for rookie sack lead last year and looks much better this year and should start), Ellis (savvy pass rush veteran who's been putting up great sack numbers his entire career), Richardson (base end with a pass rush), Warren (inconsistent but quality pass rush DT), and Kelly (4.5 sacks last year despite offseason knee surgery) will be bringing the heat on Rivers.
Great secondary combined with top-flight pass rush equals Oakland matchup victory.
Result: Raiders win matchup
Raiders Passing Attack vs. Chargers Pass Defense
Expect a lot of pressure on Russell. Merriman is back, to add to an already potent Chargers pass rush. Other than LT, this has been the Raiders Achilles heel versus the Chargers. But it'll be interesting to see how Merriman will be with that restructured knee. Even if he's not quite what he used to be, Shaun Phillips will bring enough pressure.
But when Oakland can get a good pass off, the results will be positive. Chargers ranked 31st in pass defense last year to match Oakland's 31st. pass offense. Cromartie may be 100% this year, but that alone isn't enough to match the improvements Oakland's made. McFadden's healthy and will see lots of time in the passing game according to Cable. Higgins and Schilens have another year of experience with Schilens really starting to become a dominant receiver on the team. Walker is back and has "never felt this good in a long time". DHB and murphy might even see some opportunities.
The one big matchup that goes majorly in Oakland's favor, Zach Miller versus the Chargers safeties and linebackers. Mediocre safeties will be faced with covering a Pro Bowl level tight end in Miller who will actually be involved this year thanks to Myers, Neal, and the running backs' abilities to stay in and block effectively. Miller is going to have two big games this year guaranteed. Even SD's linebackers won't be much of a match as they're more suited to blitzing and stopping the run. This also means good matchups for McFadden and bush who will be facing the same personnel.
This is practically a tie for me. It all comes down to how good will Merriman be, and how good will offensive tackle Henderson be.
Week 1 result: Chargers win. Green will get destroyed at OT.
Week 8 result: Tossup. Barnes should be back and should be at RT which evens things out more than you think. Since it's in San Diego I'd have to say Chargers win.
Overall, I think both games will be tremendously close because of just how quickly Oakland is catching up to the faltering Chargers. But I predict Oakland to be swept yet another year by San Diego.
Next matchup: Raiders vs. Chiefs