By Ryan Leong
The 4-11 Raiders will close out their season on the road against their Week One opponent, the rival San Diego Chargers. Like the Raiders, the Chargers have had a disappointing year and both teams will miss the playoffs. While the Raiders would like to end on a positive note with a win, a loss will increase their chances of a top five draft pick in 2013.
The 6-9 Chargers lost five of their last seven games to eliminate them from postseason contention after starting the season 3-1. The Chargers have missed out on the postseason in each of last the three seasons since their last playoff appearance in 2009. This is likely the last year for head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith. Turner has not won enough games but he has never been known as a great head coach to begin with. Still, the expectations have been high and the Chargers simply have not delivered. Quarterback Philip Rivers avoided talking to reporters about the possible fate of Turner following this season.
“Frankly I haven’t dealt with much change throughout my entire career in football and all the way back in high school and college and here obviously after the change after my third season from a coaching standpoint,” Rivers said. “I haven’t dealt with it a lot, so I can’t really say how I feel about it.”
Rivers has played for Turner and Marty Schottenheimer, who was fired after the 2006 season.
“I am certainly not looking forward to it,” Rivers said. “You cross that bridge if and when it comes. All I can control right now is trying to find a way to beat the Raiders.”
Chargers on offense
Rivers is having a solid year with 3,455 yards, 24 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He has committed 22 turnovers, which is a high number, but played much better in the last month. Rivers has three targets to throw the football, receivers Malcom Floyd, Danario Alexander, and tight end Antonio Gates. Running back Ryan Mathews has 707 yards rushing in 12 games but scored only one touchdown. Part of the reason is that the Chargers haven’t scored a rushing touchdown since October. 7.
Chargers on defense
On the injury front, defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin and safety Brandon Taylor were placed on injured reserve. Sean Cattouse and cornerback Greg Gaston were elevated from the practice squad and cornerback Arthur Hobbs was added to the practice squad. Last week, the Chargers pass rush sacked Jets quarterback Greg McElroy a franchise tying 11 times. The Raiders could be in for quite a challenge with backup quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor trying to fill the shoes of Carson Palmer. The Chargers also have the 4th best run defense which will likely stifle the Raiders who rank 29th in rushing. Oakland really hasn’t been able to get the run game going all season and only had 47 yards rushing last week against Carolina.
Given the struggles of the two teams, expect this to be a low scoring contest. The Raiders defense has allowed only 43 points the last three games, which is a vast improvement. They shut out the Chiefs two weeks ago, after giving up a season-high 55 points to the Ravens last month.
Last year, the Raiders had a chance to win the AFC West by winning the season finale at home. San Diego was the opponent and Oakland lost 38-26. A win, and they would have hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC divisional playoffs. Instead, the Broncos won the west and that set off a series of changes beginning with the hiring of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Dennis Allen. Rivers hasn’t always played at his best against the Raiders so who knows, it could be a old fashioned grudge match which is what great rivalries are all about.
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Ryan Leong has reported on over 2,800 games in the Bay Area since 1998, covering the Sharks, Giants, A’s, Warriors, 49ers, Raiders and the local college teams for radio networks and wire services. Having the best seat in the house to watch sports has been a thrill and Ryan still enjoys going to the games giving fans some insight and perspective on the players and coaches. His work can be found on Examiner.com.