Through four games, Philip Rivers has been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week twice. Last week he had one of the greatest statistical games a QB has ever had.
Philip Rivers last Sun. — 35-of-42 for 401 yards, three TDs and INT — was the most accurate of all time for a player who threw for 400 yards— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) October 2, 2013
When I started doing this "Chargers will win"/"Chargers will lose" series, I remember every week I had almost the exact same reason for optimism. It boiled down to "Rivers is great, Vincent Jackson is fast and Malcom Floyd is tall. Oh yeah, and nobody can cover Antonio Gates." The team was an absolute matchup nightmare.
Now, the Chargers are a different kind of matchup nightmare. They don't have great matchups at every position, but they have enough that they can force the defense into showing which one they're paying attention to and then El Capitan just throws to the other one. Everyone made a big deal about Rivers exploiting the matchup of Danny Woodhead on a linebacker for an early TD last week, but he could've just as easily hit Ladarius Green (larger than the CB that was covering him) or Antonio Gates (larger than the safety that was covering him)...it just wouldn't have gone for as many yards.
Rivers isn't just thriving in this offensive system, he's getting more comfortable with it each and every week. That performance against the Cowboys might not be his best game of the season....and the Raiders defense isn't very good.
This is a little different from how I normally do things. I usually look for stats, or some sort of statistical proof, that something is likely to happen. With Ryan Mathews, there's very little statistical proof and what is there isn't very impressive.
Perhaps the weirdest stat is that Mathews, who has been with the Chargers for three seasons (that's six games against the Raiders), has only played against the Raiders twice in his career. He's faced the Chiefs six times and the Broncos five, but somehow his injuries always seem to happen right before San Diego takes on Oakland.
Anyway, in those two games Mathews didn't do much. He has 15 carries total, for 93 rushing yards (Norv Turner thinks that 6.2 yards-per-carry average is worth a spot on the bench), and 4 catches for 23 yards (including a 19 yard catch). No fumbles, no touchdowns, and a game worth of stats over eight quarters.
I think Ryan is set for a breakout game. Watch this:
2013 Chargers wins: 40 touches, 179 total yards
2013 Chargers losses: 31 touches, 103 total yards
I know, I know, RUN MOAR. My point isn't so much that "The team wins when Ryan Mathews gets his touches" as much of "When Mathews plays well, the second half offense works a lot better."
We've now gone two complete games without a Mathews fumble, and the Chargers will be playing on a dirt field for about half of the game. Also, the Raiders (and the league) are terrified of Rivers' arm. This would seem to be the perfect game for Mathews to get a lot of carries, a lot of yards, his first rushing touchdown since the Clinton administration, and start a tradition of terrorizing the Raiders like LaDainian Tomlinson used to do.
The Raiders stink
I'm sorry, but they do. Terrelle Pryor is scary, but he's coming off of what I believe is his first concussion. Darren McFadden is good, but he likely isn't playing due to an injury (I know, you're shocked). Their starting center is slated to miss the game with an injury.
Their defense is ranked 28th according to DVOA, and will be worse without Tyvon Branch (the only player that's been able to consistently cover Gates). Their pass defense is also ranked 28th. Their pass rush is ranked 24th. Are all those stats better than the Chargers defense? Absolutely, but can you find a single Raiders fan that wants this game to turn into a shootout?
The Raiders might be able to win slugfests, but that's not really San Diego's game this year. While they're throwing punches at the Chargers, Rivers will be throwing the ball over their heads. By time it's turned into a slugfest, the Chargers will simply be trying to burn some clock.
The Chargers are certainly beatable, most NFL teams are in one way or another, but they're at a different place in the rebuilding process than the Raiders are. If the coaching is good, and it looks like it is, the Chargers should be able to use their talent advantage to find a win in Oakland.