The Oakland Raiders will travel to play the San Diego Chargers this Sunday. It will be the second meeting of the two AFC West division rivals with Oakland winning the first meeting 27-17. The Raiders are in evaluation mode for 2014, but would love nothing more than to crush the Chargers playoff hopes. San Diego needs the win to continue any hopes of earning the final AFC wildcard.
In the first meeting, the Raiders forced five San Diego turnovers, one of which was returned 25 yards by Charles Woodson for a score. That defense is a shell of itself now. They have been gashed the last few weeks and allowed 56 points last week to the Kansas City Chiefs. They need to figure out how to get back to that inspired football in order to slow down quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense. San Diego's pass offense is ranked fourth in the NFL averaging 279.5 yards per game. That will be an issue for the Raiders who have been destroyed by the pass this year and rank 24th in the league in passing yards allowed.
Everything starts for the Raiders defense with their ability to get after the quarterback with pressure. That rings true for most of the NFL, but especially Oakland. They have been burned by opposing offenses exploiting their aggressive, blitzing style. Defensive end Lamarr Houston is the most electric pass rusher the Raiders have and it is no surprise that in the weeks he has been quite, the Raiders have had difficulties stopping the pass. He earned a sack in the first meeting and will have to get after Rivers for the Raiders to get him out of rhythm. Rivers has very little mobility so he is susceptible to pressure.
It will be interesting to see if defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and head coach Dennis Allen continue their aggressive defensive calls. The Chiefs were able to take advantage with three screen passes taken for touchdowns. The Raiders also need to do a better job of tackling. It seems basis, but it has crushed them recently.
Offensively, Oakland will continue to use both Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. Pryor was terrific in the first meeting against the Chargers completing 18-23 passes for 221 yards and two scores. He also did not commit any turnovers, which has been the Achilles heel of Raiders' quarterbacks this year. McGloin is coming off a game where he tossed four picks against Kansas City. Both players should have opportunities against a Chargers pass defense ranked 29th in the NFL.
The Raiders wide receiving corps has made huge strides this season. Rod Streater has been the most reliable and leads the team in catches with 54 and yards with 846. He is 154 yards shy of becoming the only Raiders 1,000 yard receiver since Randy Moss in 2005. Denarius Moore has four touchdowns against the Chargers in his last four games against them. In the last meeting, he caught five balls for 84 yards and a score. Andre Holmes has emerged for the Raiders as a terrific compliment to Moore and Streater. He uses his big body to go above defenders and make catches. He also has a knack for making highlight catches like the one handed grab last week. This will be one area the Raiders have a huge edge taking on a questionable Charger's secondary.
Even with the advantage on the outside, the Raiders' offense is run oriented. They rank sixth in the NFL with a hair more than 134 yards per game. Rashad Jennings has come forward as their lead back. He is having his best season as a professional and has been a workhorse for the offense. Oakland will likely also have Darren McFadden back Sunday. After missing since Thanksgiving, McFadden is listed as probable and is playing for his future being an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Chargers are middle of the pack against the run, so opportunities will be available for both backs.
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