This is the initial meeting in 2011 and could portend who emerges as Division champion. Unless there is marked divisional improvement, it is likely only the division winner will advance to the playoffs. The Raiders “bully building” has taken a beating in the last 2 games. The defense experienced another setback versus Denver yielding 411 yards of offense (including 298 rushing yards and two 100+ yard rushers). The defensive inconsistency shown currently is not consistent with a playoff caliber team. This game is an opportunity under national focus to prove this team merits post season consideration. That being said lets move to an analysis of the components of the game:
OFFENSIVE LINE:SAN DIEGO
LT Marcus McNeill, LG Tyronne Green, C Nick Hardwick, RG Louis Vasquez, RT Jeromey Clary.
This unit has challenges in protection as Rivers throws 40+ times weekly (yielding 19 sacks and 30 QB hits). Green steps in for Kris Dielman as he recovers from a concussion suffered 2 games ago. This is a pass oriented offense (generating an average of 250 passing and 112 Rush YPG). Oakland is third in the NFL averaging 152 rushing YPG and 33 hits.
Keep a watchful eye on the Richard Seymour/Nick Hardwick interaction. This duo has genuine disdain for each other and there is precedent for extracurricular activities.
These are offenses with different focuses and therefore difficult to compare. Due to the sack totals
ADVANTAGE: (SLIGHT) Oakland
TIGHT END:SAN DIEGO
Antonio Gates, Randy McMichael.
Gates is a Hall of Fame caliber tight end coming off his best overall game of the season (8 catches/96 yards/1 TD) while still hampered by plantar fasciitis. Years and injury have diminished his effectiveness, yet he remains a force in the passing game. McMichael is a veteran back up and started alongside Gates last week as they opened in a 2 TE set versus Green Bay. Due to injury and play calling TE’s have been underutilized in Oakland. Kevin Boss leads the way with 8 catches/160 yards and 1 TD. Overall, TE’s have accounted for 16 catches/213 yards and 1 TD.
WIDE RECEIVERS-SAN DIEGO
Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, Vincent Brown
Even with the extraction of the ‘can I buy a vowel” wideouts Seyi Ajirotutu and Legedu Naanne this unit remains elite. Jackson (7 catches/131 yards/3 TD) and Brown (rookie made first start replacing an injured Floyd had 4 catches/79 yards/0 TD) will be a challenge for a secondary thinned by injury due to their physical nature and skill set. Raiders WR’s (83 catches/1176 yards and 5TD) are a young and upcoming group, but cannot compare to this group presently (especially if Floyd returns).
Ryan Mathews, Mike Tolbert, Jacob Hester.
Mathews was drafted last year to fill some of the void created by the departure of LaDainian Tomlinson. Injuries have prevented Mathews (509 yards/4.64 per carry/3 TD) from attaining his full potential, but he has shown flashes of brilliance. If Mathews is unable to play, Tolbert is a bowling ball coming off a fine performance versus Green Bay (19 carries/83 rush yards/59 receiving yards/1TD) and becomes the starter. Hester is a reliable blocker despite lacking ideal fullback size. In spite of the McFadden injury and questionable status, the balance of the RB’s should be more than adequate replacements. Taiwan Jones was drafted specifically for McFadden’s absence. If McFadden plays this tips this the scale heavily in favor of the Raiders. It is imperative the play calling be formulated in a manner to maximally utilize this group as it comprises the most distinct advantage of any offensive unit.
Rivers entered the season as an elite QB but has struggled with turnovers and accuracy this season (193 completions/305 attempts/2,469 yards/11 TD/14 INT/63.3 completion %/81.4 QB rating). He is an intense competitor and will try to force the ball into tight windows expecting his receivers to make plays (threw two INT’s for TD’s versus Green Bay). Overall this offense is -8 in Turnover ratio (Raiders -5).
Rivers has past success versus the Raiders, but pressure was effective last year in both meetings.
Carson Palmer is becoming acclimated after extensive inactivity. Performance last week versus Broncos was satisfactory (19 completions/35 attempts/3 TD/3 INT/54 completion % and 79.7 QB rating) but requires improvement.
It is imperative the play calling be formulated in a manner that passing is complimentary to the running game. Withholding the ball from the Charger offense is as important as the Raiders establishing play action passing.
DEFENSIVE LINE: CHARGERS
Cory Liuget, Antonio Garay, Vaughn Martin, Tommie Harris.
This is a defensive unit is surrendering 25 points and 112 yards rushing per game. They have generated 17 sacks, but lineman have accounted for 4. This is a 3-4 defensive scheme that has difficulty producing defensive line pressure.
As a specific opponent adjustment versus the Packers they opened with 2 Defensive lineman, 4 Linebackers and 5 defensive backs. I would not anticipate this adjustment in the Raiders game.
The Raiders defensive line while talented exhibited its inconsistency and lack of discipline versus the Broncos. After a difficult start versus the run (games 2-4 gave up an average of 167 YPG), they recovered to yield an average of 91YPG for 3 games prior to yielding 298 to the Broncos. In addition, while garnering 9 sacks in the first 3 games (including zero versus Buffalo), they have 9 in the last 5 games. Improvement in consistency and discipline of this core unit has direct correlation to the level of future success and playoff aspirations.
Shawn Phillips, Antwan Barnes, Takeo Spikes, Donald Butler, Travis LaBoy
This group is the heart and soul of the defense and accounted for 13 of the 17 sacks. Overall this is an active group and will test the cohesion of the Raider offensive line signal calling. Barnes (5 sacks) has done a fine job filling in for the injured Phillips (3 sacks) and steady veteran Takeo Spikes leads with 56 tackles (followed closely by Butler with 54). LaBoy has chipped in with 1 sack. The Raider linebacker crew is the weakest defensive component currently. Against Denver (without McClain) the group continued to struggle shedding blocks, in pursuit angles and tackling.
This is an area requiring dramatic overall increased performance in short order.
DEFENSIVE BACKS:SAN DIEGO
Quentin Jammer, Marcus Gilchrist, Steve Gregory, Eric Weddle, Antoine Cason
Outside of the rookie Gilchrist, this is an experienced group (minimum of 5 years) that is surrendering on average 192 YPG/15 TD and 64% completion % (Raiders 14 TD and 53 completion %). Jammer is an effective corner, but does tend to “peek into backfield” and can be beaten up field. Gilchrist has replaced the ineffective veteran Cason. Gregory is a serviceable yet unspectacular safety. Weddle is a force in the backfield (Johnnie Lee Higgins will attest) and is a ball hawk with all 5 interceptions taken by the DB’s.
Due to the health issues surrounding the Raider cornerbacks and the inconsistency of the Charger DB’s
ADVANTAGE: (SLIGHT) Chargers
SPECIAL TEAMS:SAN DIEGO
Mike Scifres, Nick Novak , Mike Windt (LS).
Novak is a journeyman kicker having a good year replacing the injured Nate Kaeding (on IR) making 16 of 17 attempts (no misses less than 50 yards). His long is 52 and he has not had any blocked or returned for TD.
Scifres averages 48.7 yards (gross) and 41.3 (net), has not had any blocked or returned for TD.
Sebastian Janikowski is having an All Pro season and has not missed under 50 yards. He has 5 made FG’s of 50 yards or greater (including a NFL record tying 63 yarder).
Shane Lechler is approaching “greatest of all time” status and averages 52.0 yards (gross) and 39.2 (net) and has had 2 returned for TD.
Crayton averages 11.6 yards and has 0 TD
Goodman averages 24.1 yards and 0 TD
3 Raider punt returners have been largely ineffective with an average of 8 yards per return.
Kick off returners have been more effective with an average of 23 yards with 1 TD.
HEAD COACHING: San Diego
If the measure is years on the sidelines and Division championships, Turner wins convincingly (versus the limited tenure of Hue Jackson). Turner has had Super Bowl caliber talent for numerous years yet manages to keep this team from reaching the pinnacle. The coaching performance has yet to attain the goals expected from such a talented roster.
This is as close to a “desperation game” as can be staged near the midpoint of the season. Both teams are coming off difficult losses and the winner remains at the top of the division (tie breakers discounted) and enters the second half of the season with momentum.
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