Coming off four straight losses, the Raiders head to San Diego to take on the Chargers in an AFC West matchup. The Chargers are clinging to postseason hope, while the Raiders can squash those dreams.
The first time these two faced off, the Raiders won 27-17 as the Raiders picked off Charger quarterback Philip Rivers three times and forced two fumbles. The defense will have to keep the high-powered Chargers’ offense out of the end zone, making the entire Raider defense the x-factor in this week’s game.
The defense allowed seven touchdowns last week against the Kansas City Chiefs to make the offense’s 31 points a non-factor. They could not get the necessary stops to allow the offense to get back into the game and take a victory. The Raiders must do more of what they did in the first matchup, causing turnovers and handing the ball back to the offense.
The biggest matchup this week will be on third down, where the Chargers are the best third-down offense, while the Raiders rank near the bottom in third-down defense. The Raiders have struggled all season on third down, allowing teams to extend drives that lead to points. The Chargers rely on Danny Woodhead out of the backfield and tight end Antonio Gates to convert their third down conversions.
The Raider defense will have to matchup with Woodhead and Gates, and put pressure on Rivers to force him into bad throws. Lamarr Houston and the defensive line will have to work hard on third down to get to Rivers. Nick Roach and the linebackers will have to keep up with Gates and Woodhead and force the offense to go elsewhere.
In the secondary, Tracy Porter and the cornerbacks will have to stop a receiving corps that can be dangerous. Rookie receiver Keenan Allen leads the team with 931 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, but the team will also have to focus on Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal, if he plays.
The key will be stopping the Chargers when needed and forcing turnovers to give the Raider offense more chances to score. The Raiders cannot simply try to turn the game into a shootout because the Charger offense is better suited for that type of game. The game needs to slow down and that will happen if the Raiders have the ball.
Look for the Raider defense to be ready to go and avenge their effort from last week to help the Raiders earn a season sweep of the Chargers.