Source: USA Today
The Chargers have won four of their past five against AFC West foes and isn't that a trend worth extending?
The Chargers have lost three straight, though, and that's a streak which needs to end.
It's "Raiders Week" in San Diego. The Oakland Raiders and the Chargers square off on national TV Thursday night, but teams with their season on the line seem equally likely to turn in either direction.
The Chargers' sizzling start has segued into a sizeable mess. They've dropped three straight, lost their sole grip on first place in the AFC West and are carrying an impressive injury list.
The Raiders have lost two straight, but the Chargers need to focus on their own woes.
Something has to give Thursday. The Chargers have a shot at unlocking the three-way tie atop the division.
But the Chargers are reeling and they need to get right quickly. They're coming off a loss to Green Bay, although it came with a dose of momentum after a valiant rally.
But the Chargers need to get back to winning — not collecting moral victories.
It can be done. Certainly the core of the 2011 Chargers has seen their standing be a lot worse at this time of the year. But the Chargers need a win to restore confidence in the locker room.
The Chargers' shortcomings — lack of impact players from the draft; lack of depth at key positions; a coach just one game over .500 in his last 25 games — were on full display against the world champion Packers.
But by thumping the Raiders on Thursday the Chargers can jump-start a second half which still could have them in the playoffs.
And just maybe Rivers shakes his funk against a team he is 7-2 against with 12 touchdowns and seven touchdowns against.
"Obviously, it's a huge game for both teams," said Rivers, the NFL leader with 14 interceptions. "We have an eight-game season, three teams deadlocked at 4-4 and one team one game back and it's going to be a race starting on Thursday night."
SERIES HISTORY: 103rd regular-season meeting. The Raiders lead the series, 56-44-2, between these two teams that at one time, each called Los Angeles home. The Raiders swept the Chargers last season en route to a 6-0 sweep of the AFC West. Before the Raiders broom-job last year, the Chargers had defeated the Raiders 13 straight times. They've met just once in the playoffs, where the Raiders delivered a heartbreaking loss, a 343-27 verdict in the 1980 AFC Championship Game.
Philip Rivers leads the NFL with interceptions. Just what's up with that, coach Norv Turner?
"Through a season you're going to have some," he said. "I think obviously it's the timing of them and he's never had this many. Interceptions are never one person's responsibility. Ultimately he's the guy with the ball in his hands but there's a lot of things that go into it in terms of the coaching of it, the protection, obviously getting the route run exactly the way we want and he's had some unfortunate bounces on some throws." Combined with his three lost fumbles, Turner's quarterback has a whopping 17 turnovers in eight games.
Rivers' three-interception game in the loss to the Packers was historic in some ways. Rivers had the NFL record in starting a career with 89 starts without a three-interception game. The previous record was 57, held by Joe Montana. The last time Rivers had thrown three interceptions in a game was during his freshman season at North Carolina State.
—Running back Mike Tolbert has a game under his belt after missing two with a hamstring injury. Now he has to find a new nickname. "My teammates joked around me calling me 'fresh legs' because I didn't come out of the game." Tolbert rushed for a game-high 83 yards and a score on 19 carries.
—Safety Darrell Stuckey had two big special-teams plays on Sunday, recovering an on-side kick and helping down a late punt deep in Packers' territory. "The thing that drives us is that we are playing for each other," Stuckey said of the revamped special teams. "We are playing as a unit. We enjoy giving our team good field position and keeping our (opponent) from getting great field position."
—Turner was once former Raiders owner Al Davis' head coach. This will be Turner's first game against the Raiders since Davis' passing. "It's been obviously an amazing era," he said of Davis. "You think of everything he did for this league and accomplished for the Raiders it's pretty amazing. It will be different."
—WR Vincent Brown is new to the league but the rookie has learned thing about the Chargers. "We know that we have a good team and that we can contend with anyone," he said. "We're not a team that will give up or back down from anyone."
—WR Vincent Jackson has moved past Tony Martin for ninth of the team's all-time list with 34 touchdown receptions. "Much respect to the history of the Chargers organization, all the great receivers and players that been here," said Jackson, who had three touchdowns against the Packers. "I'm definitely proud, working every day with (receivers coach) Charlie Joiner in my meeting room, so it's definitely an honor to be a part of the elite group."
BY THE NUMBERS: 33 — Chargers penalties in the last three games, all of which were losses.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Among the Chargers blemishes is the lack of production — and experience — along the defensive line.
That's especially true at end, where rookie Corey Liuget and first-year starter Vaughn Martin hold down starting spots.
So when the Chargers signed Tommie Harris, whose best days were back in the day with the Bears, the thought was he would spell tackle Antonio Garay.
But the Chargers have been swinging Harris out wide, to the end spot, and it's proving to be a good move.
Harris had two tackles on Sunday and a rare sack from this spot in the defense. Only Garay and backup tackle Cam Thomas had sacks along the defensive line, until the one Harris collected on Sunday. He has had two tackles for losses against Kansas City in the previous game.
— LG Tyronne Green will get his third straight start with Pro Bowler Kris Dielman still out with a concussion. The Chargers are traditionally a left-side running team.
— CB Antoine Cason has been re-inserted into the starting lineup, replacing struggling rookie Marcus Gilchrist.
— K Nick Novak might be pushing the Chargers into a difficult decision down the road. Since taking over for the injured Nate Kaeding in Week 2, Novak has converted 16-of-17 field goal and 17-of-17 extra points. Novak has been critical to the Chargers considering their red-zone woes. On Sunday, Novak hit a career-long of 52 yards.
— FB Jacob Hester needs to shake off a shaky game in which he dropped one pass and fumbled another ball out of bounds. With the Chargers thin at running back, they would like to give Hester, a former tailback, a few carries.
— WR Vincent Brown flashed some skills in the last game and it should help the rookie going forward. Brown, a third-round pick, had his camp derailed with a leg injury. But he's getting some chances with other injuries to teammates and on Sunday he had a career-high four receptions for 79 yards, including a long of 31.
— WR Malcom Floyd (hip) didn't practice on Tuesday and he won't go on Thursday.
— OLB Shaun Phillips (foot) didn't practice and will skip his second game, but there is hope he can play Nov. 20 against the Bears.
— LG Kris Dielman (concussion) didn't practice and won't play against the Raiders.
— RB Ryan Mathews (groin) was able to practice and minus any setbacks, is expected to play on Thursday after missing the Chargers' last two games.
— ILB Takeo Spikes (arm) was limited. This is worth watching and could hamper him Thursday. The Chargers are saying it's not a tendon issue.
— OLB Antwan Barnes (calf) was limited and could be compromised on Thursday. His game is speed.
— DE Luis Castillo (leg) is out another estimated three weeks.
GAME PLAN: Attacking a defense and not leaning on Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers seems odd. But that is what this game offers, with Rivers struggling and the Raiders having so much trouble stopping the run.
The Chargers showed last week, with Mike Tolbert, their run-blocking is doing OK despite missing LG Kris Dielman with a concussion.
With Ryan Mathews coming back, to go with Tolbert, it's time for the Chargers to get the pressure off a wobbly Rivers and lean on some old-time football against a rush defense which is ranked 29th in the league.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Chargers secondary, which is making another shuffle vs. the Raiders passing game, led by newcomer Carson Palmer. The Chargers' back end continues to be in a flux, with this week's change being the return of one-time starter Antoine Cason in place of rookie Marcus Gilchrist at cornerback. But the Chargers are well-versed in Palmer, even if he is new to the Raiders. It was last December that Palmer ended the Chargers' playoff hopes by leading the Bengals to a 34-20 victory. Palmer exposed the Chargers secondary — on one quick snap count Cason wasn't line up quick enough and allowed a touchdown. In all, Palmer threw for four touchdowns and 269 yards. You can bet he'll try to pick on Cason again, and might be in going to Jacoby Ford.
Chargers run defense, which has been pushed around of late, vs. a Raiders running game that will likely be missing Darren McFadden. The Chargers got pounded for 136 rushing yards in their loss to the Packers, a trend which has been troubling: in the previous three games they allowed 94, 162 and 162. Takeo Spikes, the 15-year veteran, is being asked to do a lot and the Chargers have to be careful he doesn't wear down. The safeties need to lend a hand, and hopefully Steve Gregory and Eric Weddle, are up to the challenge. Even if McFadden doesn't go, the Chargers will be challenged by the bruising running of Michael Bush, and often the Chargers don't respond well to physical backs. Bush has run for at least 90 yards in each of the last two games. The Raiders are No. 2 in the league with 151 rushing yards per game.
Chargers interior offensive line, which is missing Pro Bowl LG Kris Dielman, vs. a Raiders front which features DT Richard Seymour. To put it mildly, the interior of the Chargers line would love to negate Seymour on Sunday. That is especially true for C Nick Hardwick, as he and Seymour have had spirited battles dating to the days Seymour played with the Patriots. The Chargers routinely offer the six-time Pro Bowler Seymour's name when asked about the dirty players around the league and they will know where he is at all times. But with Tyronne Green filling in for Dielman, Hardwick isn't going to have his usual help. Seymour leads the Raiders with five sacks and always seems to bring his best game against the Chargers.