San Diego Chargers (1-3) vs. Oakland Raiders (3-1)
Sunday October 9, 2016, 1:25 PM CBS
Oakland Coliseum, Oakland California
Another week, another demoralizing San Diego Chargers loss followed by injury news. Just a typical week for fans in this 2016 season.
An absolutely monumental collapse against Drew Brees and the Saints on Sunday was a tough pill to swallow for Chargers players. Losing another team captain and leader due to injury is catastrophic, and becoming an eerily common thing. Jason Verrett indicated to the team on Monday that he had been battling a sore knee. A physical was done where it revealed he has a partially torn knee ligament. He has since opted for surgery and is lost for the remainder of the season.
The team now heads to Oakland to battle a team that is on an upswing. The usually bad Raiders look to have finally gotten the proper personnel in place. Coach Jack Del Rio has the players motivated and they are having no issues performing on game day. The Chargers are going to have a tough time on Sunday and this game will be a true test of the Chargers’ heart.
A loss this week would almost certainly end the Chargers hopes for a division title. The team would also be in bad position for a potential wild card berth. They would need an extensive winning streak, and quite frankly, I am not sure this team is capable, with the injuries they have already suffered at key positions on the field. Losing so many starters to injury not only affects the team on the field, but it has to mess with the head of the locker room.
Chargers on Offense
Philip Rivers is the key, as he must have sufficient time to find the open receiver. He is constantly changing plays and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. The Chargers O-Line must keep him upright. Rivers being comfortable in the pocket equals a great offensive performance for the Chargers. Rivers scrambling out of the pocket and throwing on the run means a ton of incompletions and a lot of third and long scenarios for the offense. That is not a winning recipe. There is another way to keep the Raiders off of Rivers and that is to run the ball.
Melvin Gordon has been unreal this season. I realize he lost a huge fumble last week, but he did it while fighting for extra yards. You want your running back to be tough like that, and sometimes a defender makes a play and strips the ball carrier. Nothing you can do about that. The Chargers will look to keep Gordon rolling as they feed him the ball on first and second down.
Chargers on Defense
Pressure will be the name of the game as the Chargers intend to keep the young QB rattled. The play of the safeties and the cornerbacks is key as they must stay on their guy and prevent him from getting open. If they can make Carr hold the ball for a few seconds more than he wants, then the team could rack up some very important sacks.
Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown are now the two guys in the middle for the Charger linebacking corp. Perryman has been dealing with a shoulder issue and appears to just be getting into the swing of things. He started off slowly this year, but has picked up his play in the past few quarters of football. Brown takes over for Manti Te’o and is already getting rave reviews from the league. He looks to be a leader, as he was spotted last week attempting to fire up the defense in the fourth quarter.
Players to Watch
Casey Hayward– With the loss of Jason Verrrett this week the Chargers will need someone to step up in the defensive backfield. Factor in that Brandon Flowers is still banged up with a concussion, and the pressure is on. Craig Mager will be counted on heavily, as will former Packers’ DB Casey Hayward. He has been outstanding in his first year in San Diego, and the team will surely rely on him to fill the void left by Verrett’s departure.
Derek Carr– He looks to have taken the next step with his development this season and Carr looks more relaxed in the pocket. He is starting to recognize the defensive schemes better, and with that, his numbers have increased. The Chargers will try to get in Carr’s face to disrupt his timing. They have a tough task in front of them though, as the Raiders have a very big offensive line. Jeremiah Attaochu and Melvin Ingram will need to pressure Carr if the Chargers stand a chance on Sunday.
Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper– The common theme here is that when the Raiders have the ball, they will throw it. Latavius Murray is questionable for the game, so expect Carr to target both his receivers early and often. At any given time one of them is going to be one on one with a DB. Mager, and newly signed Steve Williams will be tested by the young QB. Shutting down one of them seems possible, but both seems like a tough task. One of them should go for over 100 yards and a score.
Matchup to Watch
King Dunlap is still battling headaches that are supposedly not related to his constant concussions. The Chargers probably need to think about putting him on I.R. very soon. At this point, what is the purpose of possibly injuring this man long-term? With Dunlap gone, Hairston will see a lot of time at the end of the line. He will need to contain the ultra-fast and tough Khalil Mack. The rushing end has a high motor and will victimize Hairston if he gets sloppy. A clean hit on Rivers is not what we want to see on Sunday, so Hairston better be ready to protect.
Nobody circles the wagons like… the San Diego Chargers?!?! Yes, in stunning fashion, the Chargers will have no problem dealing with the Raiders in the Black Hole. They will score early and often and take the crowd absolutely out of the game. By half time the Chargers will be in cruise control on the way to a 38-17 victory. They will finish the game this time and the McCoy critics will be silenced for at least one week. I know, I know. What can I tell you? This team always does the opposite of what you think they will do, so take this prediction with a grain of salt.