This week, the Raiders host their one of their archrivals, the San Diego Chargers, on the late Monday Night Football game. To the Raiders, every other team in the NFL is an archrival and some college teams as well, but this rivalry goes back a very long way and is especially nasty. These two teams always play each other tough, no matter where the game is being held. We should be in for a physical, hard hitting match on Monday night.
However, the key to this game will be how San Diego QB Philip Rivers deals with the new Raider defensive attack under new defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and defensive guru head coach Dennis Allen. Rivers has a number of problems to deal with. Foremost amongst them is that this is an entirely new defense from Oakland, with very little tape to study. The Raiders first teamers were very successful on defense in the preseason, but were running vanilla defensive schemes which are not necessarily indicative of what they will throw at San Diego on Monday. Rivers is accustomed to Oakland playing straight man coverage, but he may be confused on Monday especially if the Raiders throw some exotic blitz packages at him.
Furthermore, the Charger team is seriously hurting from injury already. Star running back Ryan Mathews will miss the game (and possibly a few more) with a clavicle injury, burgeoning star WR Vincent Brown broke his ankle and was placed on injured reserve, and left tackle Jared Gaither is (surprise!) out with a back injury, as if San Diego's offensive line weren't awful enough even with Gaither in the lineup. This leaves Ronnie Brown to start at RB against a Raider front seven that regularly shut down opposing rushers in the preseason (Ryan Williams notwithstanding) and Robert Meachem and Malcom Floyd to be the top wide receivers for Rivers. This spells almost certain doom for San Diego, whose only hope will be to throw to Antonio Gates on nearly every play.
Oakland will likely be able to move the ball at will, as San Diego's defense is less than stellar. They have few pass rushers and while star cornerback Quentin Jammer will start, he is coming off a hamstring injury and a terrible 2011 campaign that was the worst of his career. This game may be a shootout, and unless Rivers can have success against the Raiders defense it may get out of hand quickly.