Six Points: Raiders vs. Chargers
The San Diego Chargers (2-4) and Oakland Raiders (2-3) both seek to avoid a third consecutive loss when they meet at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday.
The three-game slide is no fault of Philip Rivers’. He guided the Bolts’ air offense to over 500 yards against the Green Bay Packers last weekend and still ended up with a loss. However, No. 17 has won three straight against the Silver and Black dating back to 2014.
Derek Carr and Co. had a bye week to let a loss against the Broncos simmer. They’ll try their best to rebound without a defensive leader, defensive end Justin Tuck, in the lineup.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Raiders and Chargers:
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1. Get Amari Cooper involved in the second half
The Raiders rookie cools off like crazy when the teams emerge from their locker rooms. Cooper averages 10 yards less per catch in the second half (from 17.3 yards to 7.3 yards) and has no touchdowns. The Raiders need to capitalize on a banged-up Bolts secondary by going to Cooper all day.
2. Rebuild Latavius Murray’s confidence
Murray has sat on the bench in close contests the past two outings. Why? Because he’s too mistake-prone to risk another turnover (two against the Bears in Week 4) or poor outing (13 carries for 39 yards in Week 5). His shoulder is healed up after a week off and he’s facing a porous run defense; it’s time for Murray to step up.
3. Rush Rivers, but get ready to jump
Rivers gets the ball out at a semi-unfair speed. But that leaves the Chargers passer open to tipped passes if lanky rushers like Aldon Smith can time their jumps just right. It’ll take a few tips landing in the hands of waiting Raiders to turn this game.
1. Target Keenan Allen and don’t stop it
Save for interceptions leader and ageless wonder Charles Woodson, the Raiders secondary is unimpressive. Meanwhile, Allen just turned in a 14-catch stat sheet last weekend at Lambeau. If his hip is good to go, Allen could top that output on Sunday.
2. Get creative with Antonio Gates
Oakland’s tight-end coverage issues have been patched up thanks to some crafty coaching by Jack Del Rio. Gates can wriggle away from the best linebackers or safeties; splitting him out wide or in the slot could confuse coverages and lead to big plays, though.
3. Don’t ask a backup safety to account for Cooper
Eric Weddle would’ve cherished a matchup with the Raiders’ rookie sensation. He’s probably out with a groin injury, and asking his fill-in to take Cooper seems unwise. Best to leave that up to some combination of cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers.