The Tipping Point: Charger Week

LB Sam Williams on the San Diego Chargers and the Raiders 13 consecutive losses to them:

We don’t like it. We don’t like the Chargers at all. We don’t like anything about them. We don’t like them, so we’re going to end this streak. That’s our goal . . . it’s something about the Chargers, San Diego and the Raiders that don’t mix.

Lightning and pirates were never meant to happily coexist. Raiders, no matter how merciless, tough or cagey are often left at the mercy of mother nature. Even the powerful can be reduced to nothing but helpless victims dangling in the whims of a greater power.

They do not, however, have to succumb to their surroundings. Instead they can outwit and outlast their opponent. Given the fact that the Raiders are 1-3 and facing a team that has beaten them 13 times in a row, is vastly statistically superior and wildly more healthy the Raiders appear to be on the edge of a major storm.

They can either crash and drown under the pressure of the waves or they can learn to thrive as Riders on the Storm. 

One thing is painfully certain, this season lies on the precipice of obscurity.

The Chargers are a tough matchup for any team right now. They are the first team in 23 years to be ranked 1st in yards on offense and defense as late as Week Four.

With the Raiders losing the battle to hamstrings and a few other injuries, it doesn't make the matchups any rosier. It is almost certain that the Raiders are going to be without the services of John Henderson, Darren McFadden, Robert Gallery, Quentin Groves, Chaz Schilens, Travis Goethel, Thomas Howard, Walter McFadden and Michael Bennett.

Still, the Raiders will not be defenseless and while they don't have many victories to show for it, they are displaying a knack for battling adversity. All off-season we heard and talked about the culture change in this organization and about the high character, hard working nature of this team. What a better time to show it than now. 

As always, this game is going to come down to the matchups on the field of play. Here is what those are going to look like:

Angry Zeus Crippling Somalia's Economy

The Chargers Pass Rush vs The Raiders Offensive Line

Ugh...I am so tired of this weakness being as obvious as Philip Rivers' Camel Toe. The Chargers pass rush only managed to get nine sacks last week. Despite the feeble number, they present a formidable foe for the Raiders pass unprotected unit.

This impressive total actually doubled their total going from six to 15. Leading the way was DE Shaun Phillips with four last week and six on the season. The only other Charger with more than one sack is ILB Kevin Burnett. He has two, both of which came last week.

Shawne Merriman's status for the game is up in the air, but before we get to excited about his absence, it should be noted he didn't play last week either.

The Chargers are second in the league with a 10.6 percent adjusted sack rate (this stat is simply percent of pass plays the team gets a sack).

Oakland currently ranks 25th is adjusted sacks allowed rate. I'd like you to meet my friend, Doom.

Chargers Offensive Line vs Raiders Defensive Line

All of a sudden, the Raiders are stupidly thin at D-Line. John Henderson's absence combined with the need to move Trevor Scott back to WLB, means the Raiders have only 5 base down lineman that have played this year. 

San Diego is currently 15th in adjusted sacks allowed rate at six percent, but it is there fifth place ranking for run blocking by Football Outsiders, that really has me worried. 50 percent of the Chargers carries go right up the middle, where the Raiders now only have 3 healthy DTs on the roster.

The Chargers three main RBs are averaging just over five yards a carry. Amazingly enough at 5.3 yards per carry the Raiders are allowing even more yards per carry than the Chargers are getting.

Please meet my friend's brother, Gloom.

Lightning Never Strikes 14 times

Raiders Backs and TEs Receiving vs Chargers Pass D

The Chargers are giving up 10.7 yards per completion to RBs and TEs. 41 percent of the completions and 43 percent of the yards they have allowed through the air have been to RBs and TEs. While the Raiders will likely be without the services of McFadden, Michael Bush is a competent receiver.

The Chargers will also have to adjust to the absence of their chemically enhanced starting SS Steve Gregory and seemingly an entire team worth of injured LBs. As the Raiders showed last week, they can really move the chains throwing almost exclusively to their backs and Zach There's-more-than-one-tight-end-in-this-game Miller.

On the season the Raiders are averaging 10.4 yards per completion to RBs and TEs. 61 percent of their completions and 54 percent of their yards have come via these guys.

Umm....

I try to do two of these for each team, but it's hard to say there is another matchup weighted towards the Raiders. I wanted to put the Raiders Running Attack vs Chargers Run D here, but the Chargers are only allowing 3.8 yards per carry on the season.

The Raiders proved last week that they can move the ball on the ground vs a top flight run D. They averaged 4.7 yards per carry while gaining 118 yards against the Texans

The Eye Of The Storm

Raiders Secondary vs Chargers Passing Attack

Without Vincent Jackson the Chargers lack anything resembling a #1 wide receiver. They compensate for this by spreading the ball around. Philip Rivers is as good as anyone at going through his progressions. The Wide Receivers are also aided in getting open due to the fact that half of the oppositions defense is watching Antonio Gates.

The Chargers passing game starts and ends with Gates. The Raiders are uniquely equipped to deal with Gates. They can and have had Nnamdi covering him. Also, Tyvon Branch has shown the ability to slow Gates down. Branch, while being a step slow in zone coverages has always been decent in man and he is one of the few guys with size and speed to actually hang with Gates.

Philip Rivers is about the only QB that has not been shy to throw Nnam's way and he has had some success doing so. The difference is that this year, he will not have Vincent Jackson to throw to. Nnam has been as good as ever, which will allow the Raiders to either double Gates or leave safety deep to help if Nnam is on Gates.

Last week's Cardinal game was the first week the Chargers haven't had a WR with a catch of at least 49 yards and each week it was someone different. Expect the Chargers to test Nickel corner, Chris Johnson at some point.

What Needs To Be Done To Snap The Streak

The Raiders are going to have to improve on run D. They should be able to hang with the Chargers on pass D and maybe even force them into some turnovers if they can get the Chargers into some third and longs. Chris Johnson will have to be someone other than the guy that was playing Week Four of the pre-season.

They will have to win the turnover battle.

Micheal Bush is going to have to step in right where Darren McFadden left off. He will have to successfully run at Shaun Pillips to slow him down in the pass rush. Also the Raiders will have to exploit their screen game with him and Marcel Reece.

It will help if the Raiders can get a decent return or two against the Chargers struggling kickoff coverage. Jacoby Ford had the first kickoff return to put the Raiders in opposition territory in what seemed like a decade. Maybe he can be half as good as Leon Washington was against the Chargers and take one to the house.

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