Playing an AFC West rival this Sunday should entice the Oakland Raiders to a peak performance. The San Diego Chargers are without a running game (sound failure) and relying on Phillip Rivers air power, but the Bolts are still a dangerous team on the gridiron.
Rivers is a throwback to Air Coryell; toss it in the air and let someone run under it. On the young season, he is 105 of 142 for 73.9 percent completion; the only QB in the NFL that has a better passing percentage is Peyton Manning at 75 percent (the guy that walks on water). Rivers longest pass has been 56 yards on the year. The Bolts live on the short crossing rout or flair out of the backfield, and the deadly post flag. They use multiple formations to daze and confuse the secondary. Combination routs from the trips formation or locking up one on one will be their diet tonight.
Then, you have Antonio Gates, the beast from the west. He has latched on to 25 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns. What’s amazing is his yards after carry is 119, and he is dragging the secondary anywhere he pleases. His short crossing routs and seam patterns have torched the early NFL schedule. He is currently the 11th-ranked receiver in the NFL.
What you haven’t seen and won’t see is the Chargers running game. There is none – well, to speak of, that is. Ryan Matthews is the main man when, running the ball 64 times for 226 yards on the year. He is 20th in rushing in the NFL, right above the Raiders’ Darren McFadden, who has 215 yards on 53 attempts.
Note for Sunday’s game: Mathews suffered a minor hamstring injury in practice, but is still listed as probable for Sunday night. Mathews tallied a season-high 103 total yards in Week 4 thanks to increased work in the passing game, but he continues to struggle to find room on the ground (just 3.5 yards per carry on season) despite given steady work — he has at least 15 touches in every game this season
The kicking game for the Chargers is fairly solid this year. Nick Novak was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, hitting from 36, 42 and 23 yards. On the season, Novak is 8-for-9 on field goal attempts and looks like he should remain pretty busy, as the Bolts offense is looking more efficient than it has in a few years.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the Bolts strengths play right into the weakness of the Black and Silver. Secondary play for the Raiders has not been a bright spot. Giving up over 237 yards per game has not many a fan excited.
Challenging receivers at the line of scrimmage or giving the soft cushion has resulted in the Raiders giving up too many yards in too few games.
For the Raiders to win, the defense will have to display a profound improvement — Eleven men accountable for stopping the San Diego Chargers offense. Not one payer, but a team effort.
Pass rush helps the secondary, and secondary coverage assist the front seven in pass rush. It all ties together and the Raiders will most definitely have to tie it together to slow down and contain the Chargers offense.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders will have to run successfully. With McFadden struggling with another injury and Marcel Reece is hobbled as well, who will the Raiders look to fill that void?
Rashad Jennings may get his chance to step up.
Playing for the Jaguars since 2009, Jennings has carried the ball 224 times racking up 954 yards while scoring seven TD’s for the Jags. In his first season for the Raiders, the 26-year-old has 20 carries for 79 yards. Today could be his breakout day.
Pryor will be instrumental for the offense today. His improved decision- making, and improved throwing control will prove to be priceless in the hunt for a victory. Pryor’s feet are the most important skill he will have today. Knowing when to run and get out of bounds or slide will be important for the offense to keep moving the chains and killing the clock.
For Jennings and Pryor to have the type of day needed for the Raiders to walk away with a win, the offensive line will have to play well. The Raiders QB’s have been sacked 11 times on the year, and seven times last week. Solid protection and opening hole for running backs to run through are a must for any success tonight.
In conclusion, if the Raiders can prevent the long TD play and make the Chargers methodically move down the field, they can contain the scoring and force Rivers into bad situations and create turnovers. If the offensive line can protect, and open running lanes the Oakland Raiders can and will win this game. Nothing flashy — just do your job.