Week 15 Preview: Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers

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Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Oakland Raiders (10-3) vs San Diego Chargers (5-8)

Sunday December 18, 2016 1:25 PM CBS

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California


The tragic 2016 San Diego Chargers’ season rolls on this week, as the Bolts face off against the resurgent Oakland Raiders.

I can remember a time when these division games were a joy to watch as the Chargers continually had their way with an incompetent Raiders’ squad. Those days are long gone as this Raiders team is very good and they also have youth on their side, which is a scary thing. They are built for the long run and the Chargers will have to deal with their rivals from up north for a long time.

Now just how far north will this division rival be? That is the real question. The stadium debacle continues, as the Chargers basically have “officially announced” they are moving to L.A. through a couple of “media insiders”. A couple of days later the team announces its exploring options in Mission Valley since that is the easiest route to remain in San Diego for the long run. What a mess. Stay tuned, because the news changes daily on this front.

The Oakland Raiders are quite comfortable playing at Qualcomm stadium. A huge Raider fan base is expected to infiltrate the Q and Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr even told reporters this week that the game in San Diego is like having another home game on the schedule. Wow, what a slap in the face. Dean Spanos has angered the Chargers’ fan base deeply and fractured it beyond repair. These are truly sad times in Chargers’ history.

The Raiders are in position to be successful for a long time with a solid young nucleus. The Chargers are beaten down by injury and are only a shadow of who they were to begin the 2016 season. Brandon Flowers is now on the I.R. and the Bolts lead the league in that category with 18 players out for the year. This will be a tough game for the Chargers. Even though theoretically it is a home game, the team has been pumping out crowd noise this week during practice. The coaching staff is aware that it will be a game that requires a lot of mental fortitude on the Chargers part.

Chargers on Offense

With Gordon banged up, the offense will have to run through Philip Rivers. He has had some tough games in recent weeks, but that is due more to the fact his wide receiving corp is presently banged up and his offensive line continues to play inconsistently. The Raiders have the ability to rush the QB, so Rivers might be in for a long day behind center. Kenneth Farrow is to get the start at tail back and though he has looked competent, he is not Melvin Gordon. The Chargers will need to be creative to keep the Raiders on their heels. Expect some trick plays and such to utilize a different aspect the Raiders have yet to see from the Chargers. Coach McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt will be pulling out all the stops this week at home. Their jobs are on the line.

Chargers on Defense

The loss of Brandon Flowers further complicates things for defensive coordinator John Pagano. To his credit, the unit has performed admirably all season long. Craig Mager has been banged up all season, but now has an opportunity to establish himself as a possible option long-term for the Bolts. Trovon Reed has stepped up his game and might very well be one to keep an eye on at the cornerback position. At this point, he has hurdled Mager on the depth chart and the coaching staff is certainly impressed with his play. Chris Landrum, the rookie outside linebacker from Jacksonville State, has come on recently and shown great ability in his limited snaps. These last three weeks will be an opportunity to watch young players compete against starting NFL caliber players. The Raiders offense will be tough to stop on Sunday, especially if the crowd is not in the Chargers’ favor.

Credit: USA Today Sports
Credit: USA Today Sports

Players to Watch

Khalil Mack

He will pressure Rivers. That is almost inevitable. The line must contain him to some degree if they plan on succeeding on Sunday, though. King Dunlap will have trouble against the speed of Mack, and will need help from the running backs and tight ends with blocking. The rushing end has the ability to take over a game, so the Bolts would be wise to pay close attention to him on Sunday.

Antonio Gates

He is only two touchdowns away from tying Tony Gonzalez‘s NFL record for tight ends. The Chargers must find a way to get him the ball in the red zone. In an abysmal season, fans need something to have joy about. Thus, the team must force feed number 85 the ball, if necessary. Currently he is tied with Barry Sanders for 16th all-time in NFL touchdowns with 109 in his career. That in itself is amazing and quite an accomplishment. Gates traditionally does very well against the Raiders, so expect him to get plenty of looks from Rivers and hopefully a touchdown or two to ease the fans’ pain.

Derek Carr

He is quickly emerging as a quality play caller behind center. Carr is not afraid to throw the ball and he has a competent crew around him now on offense. Expect him to rebound after a poor performance last week against the Chiefs. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree can be a handful and the Chargers’ defensive backs will be busy. Jahleel Addae and Dwight Lowery will patrol the middle of the field and each should be active. Both safeties are susceptible to the big play, so things could escalate quickly as far as the Raiders’ scoring goes. Latavius Murray will be dangerous as well, on passes out of the backfield. Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown will have to keep him contained. Carr has weapons and the Chargers lack of depth will be tested.

Matchup To Watch

Casey Hayward vs Amari Cooper

The play maker in the Chargers’ defensive secondary is Hayward, and he should have plenty of opportunities on Sunday. Carr is not afraid to throw the ball into coverage, and he certainly is not going to shy away from Hayward despite his pro-bowl caliber year. Cooper is tough to cover and is a beast after the catch. Expect Hayward to contain Cooper for the most part, and with that, look for Crabtree to be a dangerous threat to the Bolts. The second and third string DB’s will have to bring their “A” game in order for the Chargers to have a chance during crunch time.


It’s tough to write this, but the Chargers have their work cut out for them on Sunday. The Raiders are hardly a pushover, and the Bolts must play an errorless game in order to stay in the contest. The injuries suffered this season by the Chargers have just created too much of  a hole for them to get out of. Not to mention the coaching staff issues, mixed with the fact the team really does seems unmotivated at times. Without Gordon, the Chargers will have trouble moving the ball on the ground and could be in for a horrible game. Protecting Philip Rivers is pivotal at this point as he cannot take many big hits. At his age he does not need a repeat of last week’s game. The Chargers will put up a fight, but in the end the Black Hole will pull away in the fourth to a 27-16 win. The #FireMcCoy talk is picking up steam, and rightfully so.

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