The Raiders lead off the 2012 season at home against their AFC West rival San Diego Chargers. This should be a hard fought game by both teams. Each team has some great strengths as well as some weaknesses and question marks.
Upredictability- The Chargers don't know what to expect from this team. With a first time head coach and a first time defensive coordinator, the Chargers offense has little against which to game plan. The Raiders coaches have been sure not to reveal their new schemes because they know surprise is on their side.
On the offensive side, the Raiders have never had Carson Palmer and Darren McFadden together in the lineup. Palmer hasn't played in a West Coast offense since college. That was eight years ago which a bit too far back for the Chargers to look at tape.
The Chargers on the other hand will be running the same offense as they have for years. Norv Turner will be running the same offense he has run for some 25 years as an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL.
Health- This may seem odd to say considering the more recent state of injuries for the Raiders. But they only have one player who is confirmed as out for this game-Jacoby Ford.
All other injured players have returned to the lineup and practiced this week. Denairus Moore, Juron Criner, Cooper Carlisle, and Richard Seymour are among the questionable players but they are expected to be ready to go.
The Chargers have several key injuries. The most notable are left tackle Jared Gaither and running back Ryan Mathews. Both will miss this game. Gaither will be replaced by undrafted rookie Mike Harris and Mathews will be replaced by veteran journeyman Ronnie Brown. Both of these losses for the Chargers play into the hands of an already stout defensive line for the Raiders.
Proven- Philip Rivers and this offense have proven to be a solid group. Even with the changeover at receiver, there is no reason to believe their offense won't continue to be potent. That is what Norv Turner knows best and that is the offense in which Rivers has put up Pro Bowl numbers most of his career. They also have that guy names Antonio Gates. He's pretty good.
The Raiders have proven nothing. They have a good deal of uncertainty with this team. They have a weak group of tight ends, a questionable group of corners, and no depth at running back and linebacker. They are starting an undrafted rookie at receiver and a quarterback who has thrown four interceptions this preseason in four quarters of work. Say all you like about whether those interceptions were Palmer's fault or not but any argument would be missing the point. Interceptions are still turnovers, regardless of fault. This offense may turn it on once this game begins but it has yet to prove it will do so.
Bottom line- The Raiders are hoping this one is won in the trenches because that is where they have a sizable advantage. The Raiders offensive and defensive line are superior to the Chargers. With center position being the one exception. The Chargers could attempt to take the line out of the equation by going with a lot of screen plays and quick passes. That is where the Raiders are most vulnerable on defense and would help cure where the Chargers are most vulnerable on offense.