After years of the Chargers dominating the head to head matchups, the Oakland Raiders have been much stronger as of late, winning 3 of the last 4. This second of two Monday night matchups has proven to be one of the toughest to predict on this weekend’s slate of games. If the Raiders want to start of the season with a win, there are a few things that must happen. Here are the week 1 keys to victory.
Establishing the Run
Somewhat key to most victories in the NFL, the Raiders need to establish success in the running game. However, with the receiving core a little banged up, the running game will become even more of an emphasis this week. The Chargers have not had to face Darren McFadden since 2010, and they can expect to see him all over the field Monday night. Early success running the football would both open up the play action, and slow San Diego’s improved pass rush.
With Denarius Moore a game time decision, and Jacoby Ford still out with a sprained foot, the Raiders’ rookie receivers Rod Streater and Juron Criner will have opportunities to contribute right away. Success in the preseason and regular season are completely different things, so this game will be a key indication of whether or not they can become reliable targets this season. What better game for them to showcase their abilities than against an opponent that QB Carson Palmer has played very well against over the course of his career.
If the Raiders are going to have success on defense this week, they must take advantage of the matchups against San Diego’s offensive line. The Chargers will be missing their starting LT Jared Gaither, and the Raiders should be testing his replacement, Mike Harris, early and often. This will be the new look Raiders defense’s first chance to show just how improved they can be. All of which begins and ends with their biggest strength: the defensive line.
While the Raiders’ kickers are some of the best in the league, both the coverage and return game on special teams has left much to be desired if the preseason is any indication. Additions and subtractions have been made to the roster as a result, but this will be the first game where the new unit is really put to test. Improved play out of these units will be key in winning the field position battle, as the Raiders do not want to consistently be giving Philip Rivers and the San Diego offense a short field to work with.
If the Raiders are able to start the season off on the right foot with a win against the Chargers, you can bet it is due in large part to success in these areas. The Raiders are featuring new schemes on both sides of the ball, and this game will be the first opportunity to showcase what both are truly capable of. There would be no better opponent to get this opportunity against in primetime Monday Night Football, as it was a Week 17 loss to the Chargers in 2011 that kept the Raiders out of the postseason. The regular season is finally here, and it should be fun to see what this new look team can do in this wide-open AFC West.
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