With the NBA season still uncertain, the NFL begins Thursday games a bit early this year, starting with an AFC rivalry matchup that will determine possession of first place. From this week on, Thursday games will occur weekly.
OAKLAND @ SAN DIEGO
Hue Jackson couldn’t have a worse time to have a Thursday game. The early arrival of the mid-week matchups brings the wounded Raiders into San Diego in need of a victory to stop their two game skid. Darren McFadden is still ailing with his sprained foot, and Carson Palmer is still shaking off the rust of a near half-season of semi-retirement. Though Palmer will still be feeling Sunday when he takes the field Thursday, the added quick repetitions may actually work to his advantage. People talk like Palmer’s ancient, but he’s a lot closer to 30 than 40 at 31. The Raiders also have several other players whose status is in question including OG Khalif Barnes, LB Rolando McClain, DE Richard Seymour, and safeties Michael Huff and Mike Mitchell. Yet the biggest problem the Raiders have recently is the Raiders. Averaging ten penalties per game totaling close to a football field’s length in subtracted yardage will continue to pin Palmer in less than desirable down situations. The result has been that three weeks ago the Raiders were plus-2 in the give/take category. Six Carson Palmer interceptions later they’re minus-2. Palmer found a new friend in Jacoby Ford last week hitting him five out of six attempts for over 100 yards and a score. Palmer’s accuracy can take better advantage of the receivers like Ford, meaning Darius Heyward-Bey should see more one-on-one matchups. Meanwhile, Philip Rivers has been an enigma of greatness combined with unpredictability, and it’s not necessarily because of his offensive line, though injuries to Marcus McNeil and Kris Dielman have not helped. Both QBs have been protected well, with Palmer getting the benefit of a line that has allowed 10 sacks, second fewest to only the Buffalo Bills. Though you would expect both teams to feature rushing attacks in this game due to fatigue alone, particularly the Chargers who have a fresh Ryan Mathews returning, Rivers instead enters this game with a chip on his shoulder which he'll point at the Raiders. The Chargers will attack the depleted Raiders secondary with Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson and take control of this game early. Malcom Floyd is out for this game, meaning Jackson could draw extra double-teams, allowing Mathews to get his share of screens with Gates owning the middle of the field. With San Diego’s inability to create pressure, Palmer will answer, but the Chargers will continue the Raiders recent woes in a tight division game.
CHARGERS 31, RAIDERS 27