Chargers (6-2) at Oakland (1-7)
When Chargers have the ball
The Raiders have given up rushing yards to pretty much everyone they’ve played this season — except the Chargers. OK, Miami didn’t run the ball much on Oakland either, but the Dolphins are fighting to stay above .500. The Raiders have the worst defense in the NFL when it comes to yards rushing per game. Still, last month at StubHub Center, the Chargers gained only 79 yards rushing on Oakland, Melvin Gordon finishing with 58 in 19 carries. Gordon is coming off back-to-back 100-yard games, and he averaged more than seven yards a carry in each. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt joked that the line opened holes so wide for Gordon last week against Seattle that a sportswriter could have run through. Luckily for the Chargers, no sportswriters will be in their backfield Sunday. If the Chargers again struggle on the ground, they always can lean more on quarterback Philip Rivers, who has 19 touchdown passes to three interceptions. The veteran is third in the league in passer rating at 116.5, two-tenths of a percentage point behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, who went a month or so into the season before having a pass intercepted.
When Raiders have the ball
Oakland has dropped four straight since scoring 45 points in an overtime victory over Cleveland at the end of September. The Raiders put up four touchdowns in a loss to Indianapolis on Oct. 28 but scored only one touchdown over those other three defeats. They lost in Week 9 at San Francisco 34-3 while accumulating just 242 yards and 14 first downs. Derek Carr is the second-most accurate passer in the NFL (72.3%) behind Drew Brees. All those connections, however, haven’t resulted in much success reaching the end zone. Oakland is 28th in the league, averaging 17.6 points. As just one comparison, Cincinnati is averaging fewer yards per game than the Raiders but scoring 10 more points a game. The Chargers defense has been trending in the right direction. After struggling early in the season against the run and at pressuring the quarterback, they’ve held four consecutive opponents to fewer than 20 points. The defense also produced its first touchdown of the season last week, Desmond King returning an interception 42 yards for a score in a 25-17 victory at Seattle. The Chargers have clinched their last two wins by making goal-line stands in the waning seconds.
When they kick
The Chargers would love to not have to talk about their kicker for a while — like for the rest of the season. Rookie Michael Badgley is the sixth they’ve employed full time (full time by this team’s standards, at least) since the start of last season. He is replacing Caleb Sturgis, who was released Monday after missing six extra points in six games. The veteran finished his Chargers tenure by making only five of his final 11 extra-point tries. The Raiders employ Daniel Carlson, who began the season with Minnesota but was cut after missing three field goals in a game against Green Bay.
Jeff Miller’s prediction
The Chargers opened as a double-digit favorite and the line didn’t move much in advance of this game. Road teams in the NFL rarely are favored so heavily. Road teams in the NFL, though, rarely have the opportunity to face opponents that appear to be as messed up as the Raiders are at the moment. In losing by 31 points to San Francisco last week, Oakland’s players had their efforts questioned by many. They can’t be that bad again. Can they?