The Oakland Raiders looked really good in the preseason. And it wasn't one of those 4-0 false hope-fests, it was a team facing a slew of changes looking fundamentally prepared for the upcoming season. When it's all said and done, it will come down to whether or not they have all their ducks in a row. The skill of their best players is not in up for debate at this point, it's all down to whether or not the new coaching staff (and new front office) can put these players in a position to win.
On Monday, the Raiders will take on the San Diego Chargers, hoping to get an early leg-up on the AFC West favorites. San Diego has been at the top of the division for much of the past few seasons, while Oakland has repeatedly finished middle of the pack. In our power rankings, we had the Chargers up higher than the rest of the division, but that doesn't mean they'll win every matchup against AFC West opponents.
Oakland simply has what it takes to beat the Chargers, especially early on in the season. If Carson Palmer is on point and Darren McFadden is fresh and healthy, they'll do some serious damage that the San Diego defense simply can't handle. They're not a defense built on speed, but more on power, and McFadden is the kind of running back who can run circles around them.
There's also plenty of controversy going on in the San Diego locker room with head coach Norv Turner. Maybe it's not making headlines, but the Chargers don't have anything new to be excited about. The Raiders will be fired up on Monday night and they'll likely have the momentum out of the gate. Phillip Rivers can never be counted out, but in a battle of quick backs, McFadden beats Ryan Matthews every time.
Let's go with Oakland taking this one 20-13.