The San Diego Chargers playoff aspirations are over after the loss to the Detroit Lions; yet the Bolts would love nothing more than crushing Oakland’s post-season chances as well. The Oakland Raiders have won three consecutive games against the Chargers after losing 13 straight dating back to 2003. San Diego practically has nothing to play for besides pride, while Oakland needs a victory to stay alive. Here are my keys to the game in order for the Chargers to beat the Raiders this weekend in the black hole.
Early LeadThe Oakland Raiders pride themselves on playing smash mouth football, ranking 6th in the NFL in rushing yards with 133.5 per game. Oakland’s largest comeback in the Palmer era was against Minnesota when they overcame a seven-point deficit in the first quarter (debatably not even a comeback.) This Raiders team is built to play with the lead to set up their bread and butter running game featuring workhorse Michael Bush. Palmer struggles to succeed in passing downs where defenses know he must throw the ball. Situations like these often result in Palmer forcing the issue and throwing interceptions. The Raiders offense needs to be balanced in order to be effective. Palmer thrives off opposing defense respecting their running attack setting up the play action fake. It will be a happy day for Bolts fans across the country if San Diego can jump out to an early lead and force Oakland to become pass happy. Rivers and company should be able to score relatively easily against a defense that only ranks 24th in the NFL in pass defense.
Pressure Carson PalmerCarson Palmer is not the key reason why the Oakland Raiders are still fighting for a playoff birth. During Palmer’s 2011 campaign he averages 1.6 interceptions per game with 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on the season. The Raiders are 1-4 in games that Palmer has attempted at least 35 passes. Juxtapose that statistic with the games that Palmer has thrown fewer than 30 passes which have resulted in three wins and one loss for Oakland. However, Palmer is no slouch. In his last meeting vers San Diego he three for 299 yards on only 14 completions. When given time, Palmer has the ability to pick defenses apart. Palmer is a gunslinger that makes many questionable decisions especially when forced with pressure. If San Diego can get a consistent pass rush on Palmer, he will turn the ball over, giving the Bolts a much better chance to win this game.
Protect Philip RiversOakland has a nasty front seven that is very good at getting after opponents quarterbacks. Richard Seymour and company will be the key for the Raiders to stop the Bolts explosive aerial attack. I personally believe the Raiders have slim chances of slowing down this high-powered offense but will be able to do so if they are breathing down River’s neck, and possibly sending him into the offseason a little earlier than expected. The Bolts depleted offensive line has stepped up big time in recent weeks having only given up one sack in their last two contests. Those two games were against Ray Lewis and his 1st ranked defense along with Ndmukong Suh and the tenacious Lions defensive line. San Diego needs another great effort from their offensive line to keep Rivers on his feet.
Prediction: Chargers over Raiders 31-24