Aug. 17, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback (3) Carson Palmer against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Raiders 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders - Whom to Watch

The Chargers visit Oakland in the final game of the first week of the season. Some have picked the Chargers to actually win the division over Denver (I have not), I don’t think anyone believes the Raiders will take it.

Yet…the newspaper had the odds as a “pick em” game.

When the Chargers have the ball

QB Philip Rivers threw a career-high 20 interceptions in 2011 and he lost Vincent Jackson in free agency. This is not good on the surface, but his QB rating was actually higher without him than with him, strangely. I’m not 100% certain about that, but I read it on the Internet, so it must be true.

They replaced him with their own free agent – Robert Meachem of the Saints. Meachem doesn’t have the size or speed of V-Jax, but the organization really wanted to be rid of the WR and let him get paid by someone else. He had sat out until week 10 of the 2010 season over contract issues and only returned so he could get his year of eligibility towards that unrestricted free agent status…which is why he’s no longer there.

Eddie Royal has made the transition from Denver, and aging TE Antonio Gates can still do some damage. RB Ryan Matthews is out yet again/still, so ex-Eagle Ronnie Brown gets the start. Malcom Floyd provides the deep threat at the other wideout spot; Royal’s a slot receiver. The team doesn’t lack for capable players at all the skill positions, so the Raiders’ defense will have to take advantage of the weakness of the Chargers’ offense: their line.

I wonder if DE Matt Shaughnessy might have a disruptive game or Rolando McClain might make a lot of stops. They’ve got a decent pair of corners, but the Chargers still have a lot of weapons if Rivers has time. Ronnie Brown’s ability could be the key to their success or failure this week.

When the Raiders have the ball

QB Carson Palmer has had some awful games as a Raider, but most of them were early on in his tenure. It seems that way, at least. But he’ll throw up the occasional stinker of a game. If he struggles early, he can lose confidence.

WR Darius Heyward-Bey has 4.3 speed and 10 thumbs. It looks like Rod Streater will get the start on the other side because Jacoby Ford is out and Denarius Moore is questionable. They’re also starting backups at center and left guard already.

RB Darren McFadden is the real threat in this game. If their walking wounded line can give him a crease, he’s got his own speed to burn. These are the Raiders I’m talking about, after all. They’ve always had at least one or five guys with blazing speed if nothing else. This offense is no different in that respect.

With DE Cory Liuget setting the edge against the run on the weak side, it appears their 3-4 should be successful in giving their linebackers every chance to make plays in the running game and bottle up McFadden. Rookie Melvin Ingram should see some action in passing situations from the weak side so keep an eye on him.

The Chargers have a great ball-hawk in safety with Eric Weddle. With Palmer’s history of inconsistent play early on, this game is as likely as any to see Weddle haul one in but those are nearly impossible to predict. I guess all those 3- and 4-interception games in week one has me thinking that Palmer might just add to the old trick pile with another trifecta there of his own.

I think I’ll stick with my earlier prediction…out on a limb a bit by the margin, but oh well.

Chargers by 21

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Tags: Oakland Raiders Sand Diego Chargers

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