When the San Diego Chargers enter the sold out Oakland Coliseum on Sunday they will be the heavy favorites to win.
In fact, the 1-2 team from down South is favored by 8 1/2 points as I write this.
The Chargers have a one man Raider wrecking crew in Ladanian Tomlinson who hasn't found his stride yet this year (That line sounds awfully familiar to something that I wrote last year before he went off for 3 TDs against the Raiders in San Diego). Their Quarterback, Philip Rivers, has thrown for 844 yards and 9 touchdowns while compiling a 124.8% QB rating and the duo of Chris Chambers and Antonio gates have combined for 6 TDs in three games (Chambers leads the NFL with 4).
It has been so long since the Raiders have beaten the Chargers that I honestly cannot remember when it was.
So, other than the fact that I am a "homer", how do I think that the Raiders can win this game? I mean, they will be playing without their starting TB, best blocking FB, starting RG, DT and their best slot receiver...Right?
Well, here is how:
First off I have to congratulate the entire defense for being the least penalized team in football. Through 3 games they have only surrendered 76 yards for free.
- I stand, I clap twice, I sit...and man, is USC getting roughed up in Oregon by the Beavers...in salute of the coaching and the player's execution. -
I am sure that they have had GAMES where they have had OVER 76 yards in defensive penalties in years past.
This defense has played under control as a unit and this is a sure-fire way to have tangible proof. And, that presents a challenge to any team.
How well did you think that the Raiders would do against the run this season?
I had lots of ideas but ZERO proclamations. I knew that they had the talent and could see how Gibril Wilson could be used in a Bob Sanders role against the run, but, I also knew that they had been the worst rushing defense in football for a few years.
So far, the Raiders have given up 104 yards a game (t-13th in the League), 3.8 yards a carry and 5 rushing touchdowns. Those are decent numbers considering that they have already faced Selvin Young, Marshawn Lynch, Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles.
Those are pretty decent numbers and they bode well for their chances of stopping the Chargers running game.
These defensive numbers get even better when you take into account that the Raiders outrank the Chargers in nearly every defensive category. *
The Chargers are giving up 396 yards a game and 31.3 points while the Raiders are giving up 336.3 yards and 24 points a game.
The strength of the San Diego defense has been challenged and they are giving up 284 yards in the air. This can be a chance for Chill-Ins to join in on the fun that Johnnie Lee and JaMarcus started having last week and I am hoping that this is the week that he gets more reps..
If Schillens can give the team another weapon that JaMarcus Russel has at his disposal (He already has the deep slant to Higgins) then that will open things up for Miller and the RB's up the middle of the field and I really don't think that the Raider running game can be stopped if the defense has to play the pass honestly.
As far as the pass rush goes, the Raiders have 8 sacks in their last two games and San Diego has 5 after all three games.
The Raiders will be coming after Philip Rivers, early and often. The Bills line only surrendered 26 sacks all of last season and the Raiders got to them 3 times and nearly another 5 more. Rivers will go down and he will go down hard.
I am hoping that the Raiders can win the special teams battle like they did against Buffalo. JLH, Shane Legg-ler and Sea-Bass each, handily won their battles with their Buffalo counterparts that are given credit for being one of the best special teams units in the NFL.
Higgins is going to break one up the middle this season. It is not a question of IF, it is a question of WHEN. He has become a person of interest to opposing special teams and defensive coordinators with his quickness and avoidability.
He can be a key again this week by scoring quickly and keeping the team in good field position.
Just as much of an impact JLH can have on staring field position for the offense, Shane Lechler HAS on where the defense starts and he has been one of the best in the game since he got to the NFL.
Sea-Bass is quietly having a great start. he hasn't missed a field goal or extra point and even busted out his tackling ability against Leodis McKelvin last week.
So, it looks like Russell passing for 250 yards and the team rushing for 150 yards will be the missing piece to this puzzle and I will say that:
The Raiders will give the Chargers a HUGE shocker if:
They win the turnover, penalty and sack game and Russell goes for 250 with the backs and Russell running for 150.
What are your keys to the game?
* This is taking into consideration that the Chargers have not faced KC yet