Week 1: Oakland Raiders Vs. San Diego Chargers
- QuarterbackThe Raiders are counting on Carson Palmer to help them turn their situation around. He has solid measurables, including good arm strength, a relatively quick release and awareness in the pocket. However, his teams rarely win.Philip Rivers remains an upper-echelon quarterback in the NFL, ranking somewhere in the top 10 but he is not as good as Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or former San Diego quarterback Drew Brees. Rivers does not have text book form, but he has a strong enough arm and leadership skills.
- OffenseDarren McFadden has the kind of speed and explosiveness to take the Raiders offense to a new level as a running back, but can he stay healthy for a full season. Darrius Heyward-Bey is a burner at wide receiver and he caught 64 passes last year, but he only had four touchdowns.The Chargers have plenty of weapons on the offensive side, including versatile running back Ronnie Brown. Wide receivers Malcolm Floyd and Robert Meachem have the kind of big-play ability that make this unit dangerous.
- DefenseNew head coach Dennis Allen has brought in newcomer Jason Tarver to run the defense and the Raiders may employ a 3-4 in addition to their standard 4-3. That does not usually work. Defensive tackle Richard Seymour is still a monster to block.The Chargers once again threw their hands in the air after last season and brought in their third defensive coordinator in as many years in John Pagano. The Chargers couldn’t stop anyone on third downs, ranking 32nd in first-down conversions allowed. Free safety Eric Weddle had 11 interceptions last year and has excellent awareness.
- Special TeamsWhile the Raiders have not been a force in the NFL for many years, the placekicker-punter combination of Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler is the best in the NFL. Jacoby Ford is a dynamic kick returner.Nate Kaeding has been a dependable kicker for years, but he tore his ACL in the first game of the season and missed the 2011 season. He returns this year. Punter Mike Scifres excels at killing the ball inside the 10-yard line.
While this matchup appears fairly even, the Chargers’ edge at the quarterback position and on the offensive side of the ball should be too much to overcome. If the defense can make some improvement, they appear to be an AFC West contender. The Chargers have the edge in this game.