The Raiders have revenge on their mind. After getting bumped out of the playoff picture by the Chargers in week 17 last season, the Raiders are looking to avenge the loss on MNF in week 1. This will be Carson Palmer’s first full season with the Raiders after being traded from the Bengals in October. Considering Palmer was thrown into the fire pretty quickly in Oakland, he did an adequate job in a Raiders uniform. It proved frustrating to be working without stud running back Darren McFadden, but McFadden will be ready to start the 2012 season off injury free. Who knows how long it will be healthy for, but this isn’t a fantasy football review of McFadden, we are just trying to make some coin tonight. Carson Palmer will also be working with a new head coach, Dennis Allen. Allen was most recently with the Denver Broncos as the defensive coordinator.
The Raiders are expecting big things out of Darrius Heyward-Bey this season. After all, they did burn a first round (7th overall) selection on him in 2009. After two abysmal seasons, Heyward-Bey had his best season in the pros last year. He reeled in 64 balls for 975 yards and 4 TDs. When you draft a guy 7th overall you expect even more than that, but he took a major jump from in Oakland last year. Regardless, the Raiders are certainly expecting him to improve on his 2011 numbers this season. I think we will see if Heyward-Bey truly deserves the bust label currently next to his name this after this year. Lining up opposite Heyward-Bey will be second year receiver Denarius Moore. Moore had an above average rookie year with 618 yards and 5 TDs. The problem is that he just recently returned to practice since being sidelined on August 4th. In addition to Heyward-Bey and Moore, a couple of dynamic rookies emerged in the preseason for the Raiders. Undrafted rookie out of Temple, Rod Streater, and fifth-round selection Juron Criner out of Arizona showcased their could be some potential. While the preseason is not an accurate measuring stick, these two are worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.
The San Diego Chargers are still, well, the same Chargers you have come to recognize in recent years. After another disappointing season, Norv Turner will lead the Chargers as head coach once again. It appeared almost certain that Norv was on his way out, but the Chargers organization may be giving him just one more opportunity at the helm. Unfortunately for Turner, I don’t believe this is the strongest Chargers team we have seen, even amidst all of the disappointment we have seen out of them. After Darren Sproles left town for New Orleans, the Chargers have seemingly lost piece after piece from their core. The biggest stinger came this offseason, when Vincent Jackson signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Chargers have operated without Jackson in the past with some success, however. A little less noticeable but still a severe loss, was the departure of big, physical Mike Tolbert at running back. I think he was a tad underrated in San Diego, and believe it’s a bigger loss than most people are giving it. He ran quietly for 19 TDs the last two seasons with the Chargers. If starting Ryan Mathews could manage to stay healthy it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but Mathews has been banged up his entire career. Mathews will, of course, be entering 2012 injured (broken clavicle). All indications are pointing to Ronnie Brown starting with Mathews not cleared for contact as of Friday afternoon. Keep a close eye on this situation.
The Chargers do get some good news, though, as tight end Antonio Gates will be 100% against the Raiders. There will be some new, but familiar faces in the Chargers receiving core this season. Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem, previously with the Broncos and Saints, come to the Chargers. Long time Charger Malcolm Floyd will lineup opposite Meachem.
The Chargers’ defense had a so-so 2011 season, finishing in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories. The one thing that stuck out, though, is that the Chargers were susceptible against the run. They allowed an average of 122.2 yards per game for 20th in the NFL. The Chargers made no significant changes to their defensive front in the offseason. Headed by pro-bowl safety Eric Weddle, the pass defense was better than stopping the run. The unit finished 13th in the NFL, allowing 224 yards per game. I think if the Chargers are going to improve, it is going to have to start with linebacker Larry English staying healthy. The fourth year Charger has a ton of talent, but cannot seem to stay on the field.
The Raiders, however, would have dreamed of an average defense like the Chargers. Finishing near the bottom in yards allowed through the air and on the ground. The Raiders allowed a paltry 251 yards defending the pass per game (27th), and 136 yards stopping the run (27th). A bright spot of this defensive unit is the guys up front, spearheaded by former Patriot Richard Seymour. The defensive line has many capable players rotating continually throughout games. In fact, the Raiders were actually near the top of the NFL in quarterback hurries. If they plan on winning this game, they are going to need to disrupt Philip Rivers early and often.
Chargers vs. Raiders Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
San Diego Chargers +1 (-105)
@Oakland Raiders -1 (-115)
Over 46.5 (-110)
Under 46.5 (-110)
Odds taken from bovada.lv
Chargers vs. Raiders Pick:
I believe this game comes down to the Raiders getting pressure up front. In their first meeting last season the Raiders picked up the victory thanks to a relentless pass rush. They sacked Philip Rivers a whopping six times en route to the 24-17 win. It was their third straight victory over the Chargers. The biggest glaring hole in that contest was the fact that left offensive tackle Marcus McNeil was out of the lineup. It allowed Kamerion Wimbley to abuse that side of the line, leading to four of the Raiders six sacks. The Chargers are opting to start an undrafted rookie, Mike Harris, from UCLA at left tackle in week 1. Considering the Raiders get after the quarterback with great regularity, I think this spells trouble for Rivers. Offensively, I do not trust Ronnie Brown carrying the rock for the Chargers at all.
After the Chargers denied the Raiders a playoff spot last week in week 17, I think the Raiders extract some revenge on the Chargers in week 1 at the Coliseum. Take the Raiders, they will do just enough to make Philip Rivers life miserable on Monday night.
PICK = Raiders -1