Game Preview: Chargers at Raiders, Chargers on Defense

Raiders Running the Ball

  • 6th in Yards/Game (140).
  • 9th in Yards/Carry (4.5).
  • 17th in Rush TDs (2).
  • 17th in Runs for 1st downs (21.0%).
  • 12th in Runs for 20+ Yards (3).
  • 15th in Fumbles (2).

The bad news for Chargers fans is that it looks like the Raiders once again have a strong running game, and could be a good test for a defensive line that has looked quite good for the past 4 weeks.

The good news for the Charger fans is that Darren McFadden is expected to miss the game. Think that might be a big deal? It is. McFadden is the only player on the Raiders with more than 10 carries this season (he has 85). He's also the only player with more than 54 rushing yards (he has 392). The leading rusher on the team if Darren doesn't play? Backup QB and former Raiders savior Jason Campbell.

Chargers Stopping the Run

  • 7th in Yards/Game allowed (80.2). up from 9th last week.
  • 11th in Yards/Carry allowed (3.8), up from 13th last week.
  • 3rd in Rush TDs allowed (1), same as last week.
  • 13th in Runs for 1st downs against (21.2%), up from 15th last week.
  • 8th in Runs for 20+ Yards allowed (2), up from 11th last week.
  • 23rd in Fumbles recovered (1), down from 17th last week.

Allow me to use this time and space to applaud Ron Rivera on a fine season thus far as the Chargers Defensive Coordinator. Doing what he did, taking a demotion in order to learn the 3-4 Defense because he saw that it was the way of the future in the NFL, took huge balls. When he was handed the job as DC, I don't know if he was quite ready yet. However, each season he seems to get more comfortable and creative in not just drawing up the plays but in teaching the system to his guys. I get the feeling he'll be getting calls for head coaching jobs again...and soon.

Advantage: Tie. This is kind of confusing. Statistically, the Raiders have a slightly stronger running game than the Chargers do a running defense. However, that running game scores minimal points and that running defense almost never gives up any points. Add in McFadden's absence, which could either help or hurt the Chargers depending on if you're talking to a Michael Bush fan or not, and things could potentially get better for the Bolts. Still, if a running game is mostly affected by the offensive line and if Michael Bush is as good as he appears to be when he actually gets on the field, this should still be a challenge.

 

Raiders Throwing the Ball

  • 20th in Yards/Game (214.2)
  • 21st in Yards/Attempt (6.5)
  • 14th in TDs (5)
  • 14th in Passes for 1st down (33.3%)
  • 6th in Passes for 20+ yards (13)
  • 29th in Sacks taken (13)
  • 23rd in Interceptions thrown (6)

A better passing offense than the Arizona Cardinals, this team has gone from "disastrous" to "below-average" in the switch from Jason Campbell to Bruce Gradkowski. The rates at which Campbell was throwing interceptions, getting sacked and fumbling the ball were reminiscent of JaMarcus Russell. In nearly twice as many attempts, Gradkowski has fumbled less, has a better TD/INT ratio (1/1 instead of 1/2), has been sacked only once more and has an average of 2.2 more yards per pass attempt. Bruce certainly isn't Philip Rivers, but he's not going to give the game away as easily as Campbell or Russell did.

 

Chargers Defending the Pass

  • 4th in Yards/Game allowed (157.8), up from 6th last week.
  • 3rd in Yards/Attempt (5.9), up from 5th last week.
  • 4th in TDs allowed (3), up from 8th last week.
  • 2nd in Passes for 1st downs allowed (26.6%), up from 3rd last week.
  • 5th in Passes for 20+ yards allowed (8), same as last week.
  • 4th in Sacks (15), up from 13th last week.
  • 2nd in Interceptions (7),up from 3rd last week.
Now that is a very good defensive secondary, and I'm not really worried about the drop-off with Steve Gregory out of the lineup. Paul Oliver is a fast, strong play-maker who probably could have gone in the first round of the NFL draft as a CB, but instead fell in the Chargers lap in the Supplemental Draft. Don't believe me? Look at the numbers from his Junior season:

2006 (Junior): 94 tackles (8.2 for loss), 7 interceptions, 8 passes deflected, 3 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries.

His transition to Safety over the last three seasons has been somewhat slow-going, but it seems like every time he's gotten on the field in the past season and a half he's made big plays. He's arguably better against the pass than Gregory as well, so having him in there shouldn't cause the secondary's numbers to go down.

Raider fans seem to think the Chargers will have a difficult time in stopping Zach Miller, so let's take a look at how they've done against good receiving TEs so far this season:

Marcedes Lewis: 5 catches, 70 yards
John Carlson: 5 catches, 61 yards, 1 TD

If that's all the Chargers are going to give up to pass-catching TEs, I'm okay with that.

Advantage: Chargers. Again I'm left in a situation where I can pretty much use what I wrote last week with some edits:

The numbers make this one pretty obvious. The Cardinals Raiders' passing attack is ranked amongst the bottom third of the league, and the Chargers secondary ranks above the top third. I'm not saying the Bolts will dominate in this part of the game, but I'd be shocked if the Cardinals Raiders' passing attack had a good game.
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