The Raiders have beaten the Chargers one times in a row. If the Chargers are going to stop this streak of futility they are going to have to do it with an offense and defense that is barely ranked in the top one in total yards. Despite those modest stats, one thing becomes apparent quickly when looking at the Chargers stats, they are really good at stats. Regular or advanced. They are 4th in team offense efficiency and 2nd in team defense efficiency.
We all know the Chargers around here though and if you don't, here is the preview from their Week Four matchup. A lot has happened with these two teams since they last played, but not much has changed. The biggest trend is that somewhere along the line, the Chargers Special Teams stopped being entertainingly bad and went to just not very good. At one point, the Chargers had as many punts blocked, five, as the rest of the entire NFL. The NFL has since passed them.
The Chargers are avoiding those types of fatal meltdowns, which destroyed them early in the season. Business as usual for the sluggish franchise as they come into this game off of another successful Norvember. The Chargers are riding a four-game win-streak. They also have won an even more impressive, 19 games in-a-row in December. They have won their last two games (Broncos and Colts) by a combined 43 points. They are rolling and if the Raiders want to continue to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs, they need beat them. If they are going to do that, they are going to have to be way better at pass defense.
Chargers' Passing Attack vs. Raiders' Pass Defense
In the Week Four matchup, the Chargers destroyed the Raiders with their passing attack. Philip Rivers ended the game with 432 yards and two touchdowns. Some of the pass plays were ridiculously easy, while others he had to drop a dime. It is not likely that the Raiders will be able to overcome this kind of production again and while they stopped the Charger passing attack late in the game with kamikaze blitzes, it is probably not a good idea to utilize that tactic all game. There is no way around it. The secondary is going to have to play better and they are going to have to do it at less than 100 percent.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Chris Johnson and Tyvon Branch were all held out of Wednesday's practice. Johnson has already said he is unlikely to be able to go. Nnamdi had to get an MRI after he couldn't plant and turn against the Dolphins. Still, the Raiders secondary may be healthier than the Chargers WRs. Malcolm Floyd, Patrick Crayton and Vincent Jackson all missed practice on Wednesday and may not be able to play on Sunday. Vincent Jackson has already ruled been ruled out by Turner. Jackson, Schilensed himself on his second play of the season.
Dealing with those three WRs out last week, the Chargers utilized the famous Legedu-Seyi WR combo to the tune of four catches for 54 yards. And that was it for the WRs. Not that the Chargers had to press the issue with their wide-outs, they had the lead all game and Peyton Manning was supplementing the Chargers' WR production by with DB production. In fact, the Chargers' defense caught as many passes as the Chargers' WRs.
Plantar Fascia TE Trade-off: Antonio Gates and Zach Miller.
Miller and Gates are the straw that stirs their passing games' drink and both battling pesky podiatry problems. Miller is also dealing with a seriously contused leg as well. Miller is struggling to stay on the field, while Antonio Gates is still managing to produce.. Last week, Gates proved that 75 percent Antonio is better than 100 percent of another NFL Tight End, as he led the Chargers with 4 catches and 46 yards. The Raiders will need to get something out of their TEs in this game. If Miller can't do it, they need to throw to Meyers.
Not only is it Miller's receiving yards that are missed, but the affect he has on keeping opposing LBs on their heels instead jumping the RBs. This is big, because in the end, the team that gets better production out of their running backs is the team that wins this game. Jump over and see why.
*I butchered the poll question and I can't edit it. It is supposed to be receiving not WR yards.
Raiders' D vs Chargers' RBs
The Raiders are going to have to stop the Chargers RBs and they have to stop them on the ground and air. Last week the Chargers' RBs accounted for 202 of the Chargers' 301 total yards. 129 on the ground and 73 on 10 catches. In the Raiders-Chargers last game, the RBs had eight catches for 72 yards.
The Raiders have actually not been as vulnerable to the backs in the passing game as it was feared when they brought in the bigger LBs. On the year, the Raiders have the 14th DVOA ranking against RBs in the passing game and they giving up 37.2 yards per game to RBs. The Chargers' backs present a lot of matchup problems and I expect the Chargers will try to exploit that in man-to-man situations. I don't like the thought of Kamerion Wimbley chasing around Darren Sproles. Of course, if the Raiders don't stop them in the run game first, none of that will matter.
The last two weeks, the Chargers have been without rookie Ryan Mathews. Mike Tolbert has flourished in his absence as he has passed the century mark in each of those games. It looks like Tolbert is going to have to share the load this game. Mathews is on track to play against the Raiders and if the last game these two teams played mean anything, that is good thing for the Chargers. The Raiders had no problem containing the bigger Tolbert. He ended with 11 yards on 12 carries. The speedier Mathews was able to get outside of the D-lineman on a few plays and ended with 59 yards on nine carries.
Raiders' Running Game vs. Chargers' D
The Raiders' run game has stalled out. Hopefully, it hasn't hit the wall. Teams have been stacking the box and jumping the run. Combine this with the fact that they have not been running enough offensive plays to really get the run game into a rhythm and you get the disappearance of the run game. They will need to hit some passes to open things up, but it is no secret that this team is going as far as the run game takes them.
San Diego's run D has been solid all year. They are 6th in run D DVOA and they have held seven of their 11 opponents to under 72 yards rushing. The Raiders were not one of them. In the Week Four meeting, the Raiders ended with 111 yards on 30 carries and they played that game without Darren McFadden.
Last week, Hue Jackson made an effort to get McFadden more active in the passing game. Look for the Raiders to get him going in the pass game again. Ride those RBs, Hue--one way or another.
How to Avoid Season Meltdown
The offense needs to get in some sort of rhythm and if they are going to do this, they need to be better on 3rd downs. The offense has been less than average on third downs all year and the Chargers are the third best team in the league on 3rd down D. The Raiders and Action Jackson have to do something to avoid 3rd and longs. In their last three games the Raiders are 22.8 percent on 3rd down conversions.
If they are going to have any success on 3rd downs they are going to need consistency in the pass game. It is not a coincidence that the Raiders recent struggles with this, coincide with Zach Miller's absence and diminished return. The leading receiver for the Raiders in the Week Four contest was Zach Miller. He ended with six catches for 62 yards. It is becoming apparent that those types of games from Miller are lost somewhere in his plantar. Not a good sign for a team with bad WRs, a QB that can't throw to them anyway and they are going against a team that defends WRs well.
The Chargers DVOA against WRs is 1st against number ones. 9th against twos and 3rd against all others. In that Week Four contest, the Raiders WRs ended with two catches. Both were by Louis Murphy. I don't think this is going to cut it. When the Chargers are stacking the box, the Raiders are going to have to hurt them with the wide-outs. They must make the Chargers defend the whole field.
The 3rd down woes have not been confined to the offense.
On the season, the Raiders D has been really solid on 3rd downs. In fact, during the three game win streak, the Raiders were holding opponents to just under 18 percent on 3rd down conversions. Last week the Raiders let the Dolphins offense convert almost 50 percent of their passes. It's not like these are all 3rd and shorts we are talking about either. They are not getting enough pressure on the QB and they are not making the plays in the secondary.
One area the Chargers have struggled this year is in pass protection. They are 19th in adjusted sacks allowed percentage. This is a good thing for the Raiders. It became apparent that to rattle the Chargers offense the Raiders need to pressure the QB. They can't rely on blitzing alone to do this. The defensive line is going to need to win this game for the Raiders. Richard Seymour was limited in practice today, because of a shoulder injury, but he will need to be at the top of his game. I don't know if it is the shoulder issue, but his play in the last two games went from MVP to Pro Bowl. The Raiders are going to need MVP Dick in this one.
The Chargers are going to attack Walter McFadden whenever he is on the field and with the secondary injuries, that may be often. It is time to see what lil' McFadden is made of. This is the type of game that play a rookie into or out of the league. If he plays himself out, it is going to be a long day.