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Five things to watch

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 14, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    By Jay Posner
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    September 14, 2009

    Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. / Caliente line: Chargers by 9½ / Series: Raiders lead 54-42-2

    TV: ESPN, Channel 8 (Mike Greenberg, Mike Golic, Steve Young) / Radio: KIOZ-FM (105.3); XTRA Sports 1360; in Spanish on XHFG-FM (107.3)

    1. LADAINIAN DOMINATION: LaDainian Tomlinson has played a full season (16 games) against the Raiders in his eight-year career and gained a whopping 1,906 yards rushing, caught 52 passes for an additional 262 yards, scored 22 touchdowns and thrown for three more scores. Taking it a step further, he's gained 1,005 yards rushing in just eight games at Oakland, failing to surpass 100 yards only twice. So, even if the Raiders didn't have the league's worst rushing defense over the past six seasons, yeah, you probably should watch him.

    2. LIGHTS ON: Whatever decisions Shawne Merriman has made off the field recently, it's no secret more Chargers fans are interested in how he looks on the field after missing every game after last season's opener. Merriman had one of his best games ever in the 2006 opener at Oakland, recording three sacks and four tackles for loss, but it's inconceivable the Raiders would try again to block him with a running back. He expects to be in for about 40 plays tonight and it will be interesting to see not only how he plays, but how he affects what the Raiders and his teammates do.

    3. WEAKNESS vs. WEAKNESS: It's the Raiders' bad passing game against the Chargers' bad pass defense. At least that's how they played in 2008. But both have reason for optimism beginning tonight. The Chargers have a coordinator who's had an entire offseason to put in his defense, plus they get Merriman back and added rookie Larry English. And, while JaMarcus Russell managed just seven TDs against six interceptions in his first 12 games last season, he threw six TDs and only two INTs in his final three games. Then again, his starting wide receivers tonight are both rookies.

    4. SEYMOUR IN THE HOLE: Only the Raiders would think that a perennial Pro Bowl player who's used to winning 12 games a year would gladly accept a trade to the aptly named Black Hole, where success is now only a rumor. Had Seymour reported promptly, he could have helped tonight; whether he can do that without practicing is a big question. It's easy to see why the Raiders wanted him, though: They ranked 27th overall last year, including 31st against the run. Say this, however, they did hold the Chargers to three points in the first three quarters of last year's game at Oakland. Philip Rivers had one of his worst games of the season, with two INTs and four sacks.

    5. WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, PUNT: And in this game, that's not so bad. Chargers fans know all about the skills of Mike Scifres, and the Raiders' Shane Lechler is the only punter with a better net average (39.2-39.1) over the past four seasons. Plus, each team has a good punt returner, with Darren Sproles actually not as accomplished as Johnnie Lee Higgins, who brought back three punts for scores last season, although he averaged just 6 yards on six returns against the Chargers.

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