Yes, it’s Raiders week, which usually means the intensity level is bumped up another notch at Chargers Park.
“It’s a divisional game, especially playing the Raiders in Oakland,” Chargers guard Orlando Franklin told The Mighty 1090 AM Radio. “Those guys are so hostile. You drive in there and even the little kids are sticking up their middle finger at you.”
There should be no issues getting motivated for this one, especially with the Chargers doing some soul searching after suffering another agonizing loss this past Sunday -- this time at the hands of the New Orleans Saints.
The Chargers will also be seeking their first victory against an AFC West opponent in nearly two years when they travel to Oakland this weekend. San Diego’s last division win came against the Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium in November 2014. Since then, the Chargers are 0-9 against division foes. San Diego head coach Mike McCoy is 6-13 against the AFC West during his tenure as the team’s head coach.
Here are six Oakland players to watch Sunday, courtesy of ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez:
QB Derek Carr: Yes, it is way too early to begin such talk, but Carr’s name is already being bandied about as a potential league MVP candidate by a former MVP in Rich Gannon. And if you think Gannon is biased, well, numbers don’t lie. Carr, who has won his last two meetings against the Chargers, already has six game-winning drives since the start of last season, per ESPN Stats & Info. And that leads the league.
WR Amari Cooper: Yes, receiver Michael Crabtree put on a clinic in Baltimore this past Sunday with a career-best three TD catches, and he is Carr’s security blanket, with 12 targets against the Ravens. But the more attention Crabtree garners, the less the younger and perhaps more physically gifted Cooper gets, and Carr would love to take some shots deep to Cooper in one-on-one situations.
TE Mychal Rivera: The Raiders’ forgotten man may be the team’s only healthy tight end with Gabe Holmes already on injured reserve, Lee Smith en route to season-ending IR after suffering a broken leg in Baltimore and Clive Walford banged up in the Ravens game. Rivera, who was reportedly trade bait this offseason, has only been active for one game so far, Sunday at Baltimore. And while he is more a pass-catcher than a run-blocker, Rivera only caught one pass, for 1 yard, vs. the Ravens.
DE Khalil Mack: The All-Pro defensive end/outside linebacker and NFL defensive player of the year candidate finally got off the schneid with his first sack of the season last week, taking down Baltimore’s Joe Flacco. Mack had eight total QB pressures on 42 passing snaps in the game, per Pro Football Focus, and seemed to be zeroing in on the deceptively mobile Flacco. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has a quick release but is far from mobile, making this another candidate for a monster game from Mack.
MLB Cory James: The sixth-round draft pick started at middle linebacker for the second week in a row and impressed with a game-high 15 tackles against the Ravens. Perhaps most impressive: no missed tackles. He is operating without a net now, though, as the man he replaced, Ben Heeney, may be lost for the season with an injury. And Malcolm Smith is also dealing with a groin issue.
CB DJ Hayden: The Raiders’ 2013 first-round selection is a favorite of fans to criticize when things go wrong. But he’s been doing so many things right, of late, as the team’s nickel corner. Against the Ravens he gave up just 8 yards after the catch while allowing receptions on four of eight targets, per PFF. He’s also been a “jackhammer” tackling machine for the Raiders, according to coach Jack Del Rio, with three solo tackles for a loss.