The Raiders have remained fairly balanced on offense despite losing RB Darren McFadden over the short term and I would expect head coach Hue Jackson to continue to seek out balance as he continues to try and integrate QB Carson Palmer into an offense that includes RB Michael Bush's bruising running style rather than McFadden's game-breaking style.
Despite losing their last two games, the Raiders will take solace in the fact that teams who have committed to the running game against the Chargers have had success recently to the tune of 4.9 yards per carry and 138.5 yards per game over the last four. The Chargers give up 7.3 yards per pass attempt, which could come into play thinks to speed of WRs Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey (if DHB isn't in the doghouse this week).
Unfortunately for the Raiders, Palmer's six interceptions have been tough to overcome so the Jackson may play it a bit closer to the vest with their play-calling this week with even more running than usual and a couple of deep ball shots off of play-action to keep the Chargers safeties honest. Certainly, the Raiders are finding out that life without McFadden makes keeping things on schedule on offense that much tougher.
In 2010, there was no doubt that Philip Rivers name would come up in discussions about the best quarterbacks in the league. This year, we're all still waiting for Rivers to show the form that had previously put him in the "best of the best" discussion. The Chargers offense is putting up the yardage this year, but they are working harder to do it and their point total doesn't coincide with their yardage total thanks to their turnovers.
Last year, the Chargers were their own worst enemy with awful special teams play and this year it is the turnover bug. The Chargers come into the game against the Raiders with a -8 turnover margin and they've turned it over two times or more in every game but one including a couple of four turnover games. Rivers looks as uneasy in the pocket as I've seen from him since he's been in the league. He just hasn't been able to get into a rhythm with WR Vincent Jackson either as Jackson has posted three monster games and five relative snoozers. The Chargers need much more consistency from the Rivers/Jackson combo if they are going to assert themselves and take care of business against the Raiders. The key to success in this one might be getting the running game going quickly and there is a much better chance of that with RB Ryan Mathews returning from injury to team with FB/RB Mike Tolbert.
Despite a strong three game run, Darrius Heyward-Bey's benching and 0 catch performance last week is enough for me to keep a "sit" rating on him unless I hear he's going to be a focal point this week. Michael Bush gets a starting nod in most leagues as a strong RB3/FLEX fit and Jacoby Ford is worth a flyer if you are desperate at wide receiver. The Raiders are somewhat soft against the pass so Jackson, Gates and Rivers all get the nod while Ryan Mathews is a start only in PPR leagues depending on your depth while Mike "The Vulture" Tolbert is a RB3/FLEX option.
The Raiders were a nice story early in the season, but I have my doubts about Palmer's ability to consistently lead a team to wins even when he's not rusty. While Rivers hasn't looked like himself, there are still enough consistent offensive options on the Chargers to expect them to move the ball and score. For the Raiders, they are much less explosive in the running game with Bush over McFadden and despite have burners at wide receiver, it is unlikely that Palmer has built the rapport with his receivers that he needs to win a game in San Diego.