By Sam McPherson
It’s been almost a year since the Oakland Raiders last won a game: It was November 17, 2013, in fact, on the road against the Houston Texans.READ MORE: 2 Killed in Separate Shootings Saturday in San Francisco Potrero Hill Neighborhood
By the time the Silver & Black take the field on Sunday in Week 11 against the San Diego Chargers in Southern California, it will be more than a year. And perhaps these Bolts are ripe for the taking, considering they’ve lost three straight games—the last two by a combined 51 points.
The Chargers are reeling, and even though the Raiders are hardly flush with confidence or momentum, this game against a long-time, in-state rival could be a good chance for the Oakland organization to rediscover its “commitment” to excellence—and winning.
San Diego is coming off a bye week, however, and that may mean the Bolts have had time to right what was going wrong for them last month.
The Chargers are just 5-4 now after a three-game losing streak; in fact, the last time they won was on October 12 against the Raiders at the Coliseum. Since then, San Diego has lost to Kansas City at home, to Denver on the road and to Miami on the road. The last loss was a 37-0 drubbing where the Chargers gained just 178 yards of total offense while turning the ball over four times—not their finest hour or effort.
Before the first matchup between the teams, the Bolts looked very good in beating Seattle in Week Two at home, beating Buffalo in a tough road game in Week Three, smoking Jacksonville at home in Week Four and then beating the Jets handily in Week Five.
Chargers on Offense
Quarterback Philip Rivers was having a great season through six games, but he’s struggled in recent weeks—just as the whole team has been headed downhill. Rivers still has a stellar 102.6 QB rating for the season, and his 20:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio can’t be overlooked. He completes 67% of his passes.
The Chargers have really struggled to establish a running game, however, with so many injuries to their backfield corps. Not a single runner is averaging more than 3.8 yards per carry, even those guys with limited touches. San Diego’s offensive line injuries also are to blame here.
With no running game and a porous OL, Rivers’ effectiveness in hitting his talented receiving targets has diminished in recent weeks—but there is a lot of talent still out there waiting to catch balls. Five different players have at least 22 receptions this season for San Diego: Keenan Allen (47), Antonio Gates (35), Malcom Floyd (28), Eddie Royal (26) and Branden Oliver (22).
Chargers on DefenseREAD MORE: Saturday Shooting in Sunnyvale Kills 1; Police Arrest Suspect
Safety Eric Weddle and linebacker Donald Butler have seen a lot of action this year, making 64 and 57 tackles, respectively. They lead the Bolts’ defense in that category, by far. Defensive end Corey Liuget has 2.5 sacks to lead the Chargers in that category, but San Diego has had 12 players register at least one sack this season, overall.
Cornerback Brandon Flowers has two interceptions, and the team overall has just four picks on the season.
Obviously, the Chargers defense has been struggling lately: Since shutting out the Jets in Week Five, San Diego has allowed an average of almost 31 points per game.
Chargers Players to Watch
This is simple: the running backs. Brandon Oliver has been carrying the load in the absence of Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown, and the San Diego offense clicks best when it can run the ball effectively enough to enable Rivers to throw at will. With the bye week, perhaps Mathews (knee) and Brown (concussion) are ready to return to the lineup at full capacity.
And of course, the Raiders defense has to watch Rivers: Even without support, he is still good enough to beat a defense as bad as Oakland’s unit on his own. After watching Peyton Manning shred the secondary last weekend, Rivers and his pass catchers have to be licking their chops.
Outlook for Week 11
Even with San Diego struggling, it’s hard to pick the Raiders to win at this point. They’re historically bad: The current -11.8 average margin of defeat would be the second-worst mark in franchise history if it keeps for the rest of the season.
Oakland has lost a lot of close games this year, however: four losses by seven points or less, including one to these Chargers. Throw out the Broncos’ result, because … well, it was the Broncos. If the Raiders can keep this game close into the fourth quarter, one has to assume they’ll eventually pull one out. Right?
Six times this season the Raiders have been within striking distance late, only to fail on defense at the crucial moment(s). Perhaps the next time could be different.
But don’t count on that happening this weekend against the Chargers, on the road—even with all the Silver & Black fans in the stadium down south.
For more Raiders news and updates, visit Raiders Central.MORE NEWS: Police Arrest Teen Suspect for Friday-Evening Homicide in SF Excelsior District
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering all things Oakland A’s. His work can be found on a Examiner.com.