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Game Preview: Raiders at Chargers, Chargers on Offense

Locked on target. Unleash the fury.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Locked on target. Unleash the fury. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Chargers Running the Ball

  • 15th in Yards/Game (113.3).
  • 18th in Yards/Carry (4.0).
  • 5th in Rush TDs (11).
  • 17th in Runs for 1st downs (21.2%).
  • 9th in Runs for 20+ Yards (9).
  • 30th in Fumbles (9).

The Chargers running game this season would probably best be described as "patch-work". Sometimes it's Ryan Mathews, but most times it's been Mike Tolbert (either due to effectiveness or injury). Jacob Hester has been sprinkled in there now that he's finally figured out how to be good, and Darren Sproles is the 3rd down back. There has been no dominant back, and therefore no dominant running game.

The good news is that the running game has been good enough, and even improved over last season, and there's plenty of opportunity for it to get better. If the Chargers get really lucky, these last few weeks of the regular season will feature a healthy Mathews finding his stride and proving his value. That would make the entire team, Mike Tolbert included, a lot more dangerous.....which is a scary thought.

Raiders Stopping the Run

  • 28th in Yards/Game allowed (133.7)
  • 23rd in Yards/Carry allowed (4.4)
  • 18th in Rush TDs allowed (9)
  • 9th in Runs for 1st downs against (20.5%)
  • 25th in Runs for 20+ Yards allowed (10)
  • 8th in Fumbles recovered (6)

Mediocre running game versus mediocre run defense! Exciting! The Raiders have had some really bad games stopping the run and some not-so-bad ones. The key seems to be Rolando McClain, who went from a guy making rookie mistakes to the key to their run defense being any good. If he doesn't play against the Chargers (he missed practice yesterday), it helps San Diego's chances of having a strong running game on Sunday. If he does play, they can still hope for rookie mistakes.

Advantage: Chargers.


Chargers Throwing the Ball

  • 2nd in Yards/Game (294.3).
  • 1st in Yards/Attempt (9.0).
  • 1st in passing TDs (23).
  • 1st in Passes for 1st down (43.3%).
  • 1st in Passes for 20+ yards (52).
  • 19th in Sacks taken (25).
  • 11th in Interceptions thrown (9).

If the season ended today, Rivers would finish with the 20th best yards-per-attempt for a season. Ever. His Y/A for the last three seasons: Peyton Manning, who I still believe is one of the top 3 QBs of all time, has only finished a season higher than 8.4 Y/A once in his entire career (2004, when he broke the record for TD passes in a season).

I am a big fan of the Y/A statistic, because it factors in a lot of different things. It factors in the type of offense the QB is in (do they throw lots of short-passes?), how accurate they are (and how accurate they are on deep throws) and the risks they take. It's obviously not without it's flaws, but for Rivers to be dominating the league in this statistic each season is a testament to how great of a QB he is.


Raiders Defending the Pass

  • 5th in Yards/Game allowed (201.5)
  • 23rd in Yards/Attempt (7.4)
  • 26th in TDs allowed (21)
  • 8th in Passes for 1st downs allowed (32.1%)
  • 25th in Passes for 20+ yards allowed (41)
  • 2nd in Sacks (32)
  • 30th in Interceptions (6)

The league's most dominating passing attack going up against a mediocre passing defense, with an injured Nnamdi Asomugha and Tyvon Branch? This seems like an easy choice.

Advantage: Chargers.