With two key men missing, KC can't see Oakland stopping San Diego taking charge in the AFC East.
Last Updated: 09/11/11 7:17pm
This a major, major game for both San Diego and Oakland.
Both are 4-4 in the AFC West, as are Kansas City. Even Denver are only a game behind, so whoever wins here is going to take a big stride towards the play-offs. Whoever loses, well they won't be out of it, but they will leave themselves with plenty to do.
If you were asking me to pick a divisional champion right now I would have to go with San Diego.
There's a simple reason for that: they have the best talent throughout their roster. They have the best quarterback, they have the best defense and although I am never gonna start up a UK branch of the Norv Turner fan club, they have the best head coach too.
But, as always with San Diego, it's about getting that talent to click.
Last week they gave undefeated Green Bay Packers a real game, but the reality was they came up short, they had 48 points put on them and Philip Rivers, gave away three interceptions - two of them for touchdowns.
That was a career-first and left him leading the league in quarterback turnovers. I suppose if they want a positive it is that he did tie his career-high with four TDs going the right way and Vincent Jackson came up with a big, big game.
And, the Chargers will be doing all they can to get Ryan Mathews back in action on Thursday night. His replacement Mike Tolbert is a decent runner by NFL standards but Mathews is one of those backs who can do a bit of everything. Equally well.
If he can time his return down the stretch it does take the pressure of Rivers, gives him a shorter option with that quick pass to the backfield and, providing he can keep hold of the football, makes them more potent.
But if Mathews is important to San Diego then Oakland has one guy that pretty much carries their hopes in his hands. And he will be missing again. Darren McFadden is not just an explosive running back that can do some serious damage, he is another of those guys that can catch the ball out back and above all, he is one of the NFL's best players, period.
If you think this is an offense that has already lost its starting quarterback for the season, Jason Campbell, then you can see how hard McFadden's absence will hit them. The late Al Davis loved to pack his side with speed and that is what that San Diego defense will be up against, albeit a little less without Darren there.
They still have serious pace out wide. Derrick Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is having a decent season, will pose those cornerbacks plenty of problems and we know by now that San Diego might be able to stop you putting yards on the board, but they leak points by the hatful. But, last week they came up against the Packers and a special quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, who has an amazing chemistry with his receiving corps.
This week, they are going to come up against the Raiders and dear old Carson Palmer, back-up to Campbell. Carson is a guy we have all seen play well but I don't care how many years you have been around, a back-up is still a back-up. He is starting over again. And does he still have that gene that enables him to be hit? It takes years to develop, but disappears pretty damned quick and that has to be another thing going in San Diego's favour.
We haven't seen a great deal of the Raiders this season and it's a shame that they are without McFadden and Campbell. They will still be able to put points on the board, but I can't make a case for them against a San Diego side that is just better across the board. That San Diego defense should have taken last week as a wake-up call, but if you thought they had problems, Oakland had 38 put on them. By Denver. And the Chargers even have homefield advantage too, so it has to be them.
The Cadle Guy
Philip Rivers (San Diego) - For the first time since he really arrived as one of the NFL's premium quarterbacks, there are question marks against Rivers. It's not his arm, but his ability to hold onto possession. A career-high four TD's and a career-high three interceptions, two of them for pick sixes, against Green Bay last week sums up his season. They might not be the Raiders of old, but they will be coming after him on Thursday night, make no mistake about that. But if he can rediscover some composure, and if Ryan Mathews is back, then he can hurt Oakland.