No matter where each team has been located, the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders have been bitter rivals since they both entered the NFL in 1960. On Sunday, they will continue their division rivalry, this time in Oakland.
Last Sunday, the Chargers lost a heartbreaker to the New Orleans Saints 35-34 at home. Despite throwing for 321 yards, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers threw his first interception of the season, which clinched the game for the Saints.
Meanwhile in Baltimore, down by six late in the fourth quarter, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr led the team on a six-play, 66-yard drive in 1:24 that culminated in a 23-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Crabtree with 2:12 left to give Oakland the 28-27 victory over the Ravens.
Oakland leads the all-time series over the Chargers 60-50-2. Last season, the Raiders swept their longtime division rivals.
San Diego at Oakland
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 9 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Oakland -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Melvin Gordon
After a disappointing rookie season in 2015, the Chargers’ top running back is having a much different start to his sophomore campaign. In four games, Gordon has rushed for 230 yards and is tied for the NFL lead with six touchdowns (all on the ground). This was after he did not score a single touchdown in 14 games played last season.
Since Danny Woodhead was lost for the season with a torn ACL, Gordon has become one of the focal points of the Chargers’ offense. Against Jacksonville in Week 2, Gordon recorded his first career 100-yard rushing game.
With the Raiders ranking 31st in rush defense, Gordon could be in line for another productive game.
2. Michael Crabtree
A former first-round draft pick (2009, 10th overall), Crabtree spent his first six seasons in San Francisco. After a disappointing 2014 campaign in which he caught 68 passes for 698 yards and four touchdowns, Crabtree became a free agent. After not generating a great deal of interest from other teams, Oakland signed him to a one-year, $3.2 million contract and he responded with 85 receptions for 922 yards and nine touchdowns.
After the 2015 season, Crabtree was rewarded with a four-year, $35 million contract extension and he’s gotten off to a strong start this fall. Through four games, he’s tied for fifth in the NFL in receptions (26) and tied for second with four touchdown catches. Last week in the come-from-behind win in Baltimore, Crabtree caught seven balls for 88 yards and a career-high three touchdowns.
3. Both Defenses
Neither the Chargers’ nor Raiders’ defense is among the better units in the NFL. San Diego enters this afternoon’s game ranked 22nd in the league in total defense (371.5 yards per game), while Oakland is dead last in the same category (460.0).
Both teams are giving up an average of 27 points per game and have had to deal with some key injuries. San Diego will be without Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett, who is lost for the season with a partially torn ACL.
If the Raiders have enough time in the pocket, they should be able to exploit the Chargers’ secondary. Surprisingly, the Raiders rank near the bottom in sacks with just five on the season, despite the presence of Khalil Mack. A 2015 first-team All-Pro at defensive end and linebacker after recording 15 sacks, Mack has just one thus far this season.
If you love NFL games with a ton of offense, then this matchup is definitely for you. San Diego is averaging 30.3 points per game (third in NFL), while Oakland comes in at 27 points per contest (tied for seventh).
San Diego has been ravaged by injuries on both sides of the ball, while the Raiders have impact players on both offense and defense. Look for Derek Carr to spread the ball around to his wide receivers early before relying on DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard to chew up some clock and wear down the Chargers’ defense late.
Oakland should be able to produce enough offense to secure its first home victory of the season and stay close to Denver in the AFC West standings.
Prediction: Oakland 38, San Diego 34
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.