By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – Just when you think the New York Jets, Jacksonville
Jaguars or Tampa Bay Buccaneers have cornered the NFLs market on suffering,
consider the Oakland Raiders.
The Silver and Black are 0-for-9 this season and 0 for their last 15 overall,
which is the leagues longest streak of futility since St. Louis lost 17
consecutive games across the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
The Raiders have lost seven straight on the road heading into this weekend’s
visit to AFC West rival San Diego, though the Chargers – who’ve lost three in
a row of their own – are playing it predictably diplomatic by assuming their
opponent’s “Commitment to Excellence” could return at any moment.
“Normally if it was a non-divisional game you might view it a little
different,” San Diego linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “But this is the
Raiders. We know how talented they are, we know how hard they play and
if you take them for granted, if you look at them just for the record, you’re
Maybe so, but the level to which Oakland has stumbled was again revealed last
Their Week 10 home outing resulted in a 41-17 thrashing by the Denver Broncos
in which the hosts churned out just 30 rushing yards and 222 yards of total
offense. The paltry offensive numbers also included an inglorious stat – the
Raiders didn’t muster a first down on the ground for the whole game, the first
time that’s occurred since 2006.
“They’re looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow and it hasn’t been
there,” coach Tony Sparano said. “We have to stay the course and believe in
the things that we’re doing and we’re getting better as a football team.”
Rookie quarterback Derek Carr continued an uneven first-year performance
that’s yielded a 67.7 passer rating in his last four starts, while he’s
completed 61.4 percent of his throws for four touchdowns, four interceptions
and 386 yards.
In his initial meeting with the Chargers – a 31-28 loss in Week 5 – he had
four TD passes, including a 77-yarder to Andre Holmes just three plays into
“It’s not just Derek,” Sparano said. “I know we want to make this just about
Derek, but it’s not really about Derek.”
And in San Diego, it’s no longer about the five-game win streak that provided
a nice playoff perch.
Instead, those riches have quickly been frittered by a skid that reached three
games with an ugly 37-0 defeat at Miami two weeks ago, before the team had its
bye in Week 10.
Since beating the Raiders on Oct. 12, the Chargers have lost to Kansas City,
Denver and the Dolphins by progressively worsening margins of three, 14 and 37
points. And, if the postseason tournament began today they would be on the
outside looking in.
Not exactly what wide receiver Eddie Royal had in mind a month ago.
“As a competitor you just hate losing and you know that feeling and you never
want to have it again,” he said. “So that kind of motivates you to come out
and work that much harder, study a little bit more film, just so you don’t
have that feeling again.”
The only problem: The funk seems to be a team-wide malady, rather than an
San Diego has turned the ball over seven times in the three losses after
having one ball-losing miscue during the five wins. The Chargers averaged 245
yards against the Chiefs, Broncos and Dolphins after gaining just short of 400
per game (395.8) in the five-week winning stretch.
On defense, the yards allowed have jumped from 289.4 during the five wins to
410.3 in the three losses.
Also, the seven takeaways generated in the victories have been reduced to zero
in the three defeats.
The loss in Miami was the franchise’s first via shutout since 1999.
Optimism could return thanks to the possible re-appearance of running back
Ryan Mathews, who’s missed seven games with a knee injury but is expected to
start against the Raiders. He entered this season after a career-high 1,255-
yard performance in 2013, thanks to an average of 4.4 yards per carry. He has
just 71 yards this season on 23 attempts.
Also anticipated back is linebacker Melvin Ingram, who’s also missed seven
games with a hip problem.
But it’s not just about healthy returns.
Quarterback Philip Rivers has been picked off six times, completed 62.1
percent of his throws and compiled a 71.2 passer rating in the losing streak.
In the five wins, he’d had a 126.8 rating, connected on 71.8 percent of his
attempts and was intercepted only once.
In the October defeat of the Raiders, he was 22-for-34 for 313 yards and three
“You’re definitely excited but those two guys aren’t going to change
everything we do,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “The other 10 guys on the
field have got to play better with him. Ryan Mathews does not guarantee 200
yards rushing. It’s not just a couple guys coming back that all of a sudden
you’re winning a football game. All 46 have got to play better, we’ve got to
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Pick Your Poison
Three-game losing streak or not, it’s an embarrassment of riches for San Diego
when it comes to statistical matchups with the Raiders. Oakland is last in the
league in total offense and rushing, and third from last in points scored. On
defense, the only category in which the Raiders emerge from the league’s
bottom third is passing, where they are 15th overall.
Though the rivalry’s earliest days were dominated by the Raiders, the Chargers
have definitively turned the tide since 2003 – going 18-5 in those 23 games,
including a stretch of 13 consecutive wins between 2003 and 2009. Most
recently, San Diego has won two in a row and five of the last six against
Oakland, which has swept a season series just one time (2010) since 2001.
Though San Diego’s Johnson was kind to the Raiders in his game-week
commentary, this one has every conceivable sign of a get-well exercise for the
Chargers. The hosts are better in every facet of the game and have gotten to
the point in the season where victories – and the playoff positioning they’ll
yield – are particularly important. It’s hard to fathom Oakland competing what
that over 60 minutes.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Chargers 24, Raiders 14