Christmas Eve could be the last time the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders meet while residing in different cities. It might also be the final game the Silver and Black play in the East Bay.
What’s certain is that Charles Woodson will take the field for the last home contest of his storied career.
With the uncertainly of relocation lingering over both franchises, Woodson tries to help the Raiders sweep this season series and hand the Chargers a seventh straight AFC West defeat Thursday night.
Ownership in St. Louis, Oakland and San Diego would all like to move their respective franchises to Los Angeles, possibly as soon as next season. The Raiders and Chargers have come together on a joint venture for a stadium in the L.A. suburb of Carson. NFL owners could make a decision on the futures of those teams when they meet Jan. 12-13 in Houston.
The Chargers (4-10) snapped a five-game skid at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday with an emotional 30-14 win over Miami in what could have been their final game in the area. The Raiders (6-8) left Oakland for L.A. once already in 1982 before returning in 1995.
"(This game could) have added significance," Oakland coach Jack Del Rio said. "I don’t know what the plans are. That’s not my area. I just continue to coach football and have our guys as prepared as possible."
As the Raiders look to record their first sweep of San Diego since 2010, it will certainly be significant for Woodson. The 18-year veteran announced Monday that he will retire after this season.
"I felt it was only right that Raiders fans, my fans, fans that have watched me play for a long time, I’d let them all know that this Thursday night would be the last time in the Coliseum I would be able to run out there in front of our fans at home," he said.
A former Heisman Trophy winner, NFL defensive rookie of the year and defensive player of the year, Woodson ranks fifth all-time with 65 interceptions and is tied for first with 13 defensive touchdowns. The 39-year-old, who has played 11 seasons over two stints with Oakland, leads the team with five picks and is second with 65 tackles in 2015.
"Charles Woodson is one of those players that comes along and reminds you why you love the game," Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said.
If the Raiders are to prevail in Woodson’s home swan song, they must improve after being outscored 94-54 during a three-game slide at the Coliseum. Oakland held Green Bay to 293 total yards Sunday, but had a Derek Carr interception returned for a touchdown in the first quarter and gave up the game’s final 13 points in the 30-20 defeat.
Despite doubling their win total from last season, the Raiders will miss the playoffs for a 13th consecutive season.
"It hurt my heart to be honest because I know how much work I put into this, how much work our team puts into this," said Carr, who has thrown six touchdowns and seven interceptions in the last three home contests.
Rookie Amari Cooper became the first Raider since Randy Moss in 2005 to record 1,000 receiving yards after catching six passes for 120 and two TDs on Sunday, though he didn’t seem too enthused about the accomplishment.
"I guess it’s a good thing to do, but people go for 1,000 yards every year so it’s not really a big thing," he said.
Cooper had five receptions for 133 yards, with 52 going for a TD in the 37-29 win at San Diego on Oct. 25.
Carr completed a season-high 77.4 percent of his passes (24 of 31) for 289 yards with three TDs and no INTs in that contest. Teammate Latavius Murray ran 15 times for 85 and a score. Murray, though, has averaged 3.1 yards per carry in the last six contests.
San Diego was mired in a six-game slide during the first meeting, but can win back-to-back games for the first time and record its first division victory since beating Oakland 13-6 on Nov. 16 of last year. The Chargers finish the season at Denver.
Down 37-6 to Oakland in October, Philip Rivers threw three fourth-quarter TDs, two to running back Danny Woodhead. Rivers was intercepted twice in that game and had the same amount Sunday but also threw three TDs to Woodhead.
The diminutive back also ran for a score as the Chargers totaled 442 yards after they averaged 305.3 in the previous six contests.
"It was a special day, if it is the last one," an emotional Rivers said. "I know it’s one of those (where) we still don’t know; maybe we’ll get to trot back out there and play again."
San Diego still ranks last in rushing (84.0 yards per game) even after gaining a season-high 140 against the Dolphins. Veteran Donald Brown had 90 on 12 carries and Melvin Gordon added 41 on 15 attempts in what proved to be the final game of his disappointing rookie season.
The Chargers announced Monday that Gordon will miss the final two games with torn cartilage in his left knee. The 15th overall pick averaged 3.5 yards per carry while gaining 641, failing to score a TD and losing four fumbles.
"I think really it goes down to everybody doing their jobs better, and not just Melvin Gordon," coach Mike McCoy said. "It’s not just a one-man show. But he’s got a bright future."