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Game Preview: San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders, Week 1

Darren McFadden hasn't had great success against the Chargers.
Darren McFadden hasn't had great success against the Chargers.

The San Diego Chargers' first opponent of 2012 is the Oakland Raiders, who were their last opponent of 2011. That should make things a bit easier. What's changed since the Chargers traveled to Oakland and kept the Raiders from finishing above .500? Well, a lot....and nothing.

  • They fired their Head Coach, hired Doogie Howser and "installed" a new defense.
  • Rolando McClain somehow avoided suspension while pointing a gun at a dude's head.
  • Their good CBs were replaced with bad ones.
  • They hired a competent General Manager to replace Al Davis.
  • Darren McFadden got "healthy".
That last one is important. Any Raiders fan you talk to today will say "Yeah, you beat us last year, but we didn't have McFadden." Well, would he have made a difference? Let's see.

In four seasons, Darren McFadden has played in four games against the San Diego Chargers. The Raiders have played in eight. So, fast as he may be, McFadden's brittle bones already remove some of the fear from opposing defenses about him.

During his rookie season, the only year in which he's played twice against the Bolts, McFadden finished with 8 carries for 20 yards against the Chargers. Granted, he was still somewhat of a "backup" at that point, but those numbers are very weak.

The last time McFadden faced the Chargers, Ron Rivera was the Defensive Coordinator for San Diego. Darren ran for 97 yards on 19 carries in a 28-13 Raiders victory.

Keys to the Game

  • It is possible that the new coach and healthy running back will give the Raiders the advantage they were lacking in Week 17 of the 2011 season? Sure, anything's possible. However, don't be fooled into thinking this is an entirely different team. If anything, Charger fans should be thankful that Michael Bush (a perennial problem for the Bolts) is a Chicago Bear and not waiting to terrorize San Diego on 3rd downs anymore.
  • There's no doubt that the Raiders will be throwing lots of blitzes at UDFA and starting Left Tackle Mike Harris, but they no longer have an above-average pass-rusher that can dominate Harris in one-on-one situations. That's going to make things much easier for Harris, and for Philip Rivers.
  • We pretty much know what to expect from veterans Palmer and Rivers. What we don't know is how the Chargers running attack will perform without Ryan Mathews, and how well the defense will be able to contain Darren McFadden. There will be plenty of passes thrown, but the winner of this game will be determined by the running game and turnovers.