NFL Preview - San Diego (2-2) at Oakland (1-3)|
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Until further notice, Oakland is without question a
With the Athletics in the divisional round of the American League playoffs on
Saturday night, the long-moribund Raiders have been forced into the unique
position of having to schedule around the remnants of their stadium mate's
revelry when it comes to their own Week 5 game with San Diego.
The Chargers' visit, which had been scheduled for Sunday afternoon at 4:05
p.m. ET, will now occur at 11:35 p.m. ET because of the prolonged time it
takes to convert the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum from one sport to
The late-night game will be broadcast by the NFL Network, and the extra few
hours will no doubt be spent by Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor undergoing last-
minute assessments to make sure he's ready to return after suffering a
concussion in Week 3 against Denver.
Pryor was held out of last week's game, which ended in a 24-14 loss to
He completed 19 passes, threw for 281 yards and brought his 2013 rushing total
to 198 yards -- second-best on the team -- in the loss to the Broncos. His
replacement, free-agent signee Matt Flynn, went 21-for-32 against the Redskins
for 227 yards, a TD and an interception.
Pryor participated fully in Oakland's Wednesday practice and is expected to
"It's going to be a tough, competitive football game," Raiders coach Dennis
Allen said. "They've got good players. We're going to have to play well to
That will presumably include Pryor being Pryor, though the ex-Ohio State star
insisted he'll try to temper his natural instincts with a little more
prudence. His first start with Oakland came last season against the Chargers,
and, in a 24-21 loss, saw him throw for 150 yards and two touchdowns.
"I just try to make the right decisions and the smart decisions and be a smart
person and player," he said. "If there's three guys coming cramming down on
me, I don't want to challenge all three of those guys, so get down. Just be
myself and play football. That's how I have to play."
Unfortunately for Allen, Pryor isn't the only injury concern.
Marcel Reece's knee injury will keep the fullback out against the Chargers and
center Stefan Wisniewski is doubtful with a knee issue of his own. Starting
running back Darren McFadden is questionable after tweaking a hamstring last
That puts more responsibility in the hands and on the legs of Rashad Jennings,
who'd presumably get McFadden's workload if the No. 1 man is unavailable.
Jennings had eight receptions and ran for 45 yards against the Redskins.
"If you have the right mentality nothing really changes," he said. "You
prepare that you're carrying the load always. We hope he's healthy. He's a big
part of this team. Whatever role I'm asked to take on I'll be ready for it."
San Diego took a hit of its own on the injury front when linebacker Dwight
Freeney tore his quadriceps in a win over Dallas. In his first year with the
Chargers after 11 seasons -- and seven Pro Bowls -- with Indianapolis, Freeney
had a half-sack, one tackle and one assist in four games.
He was placed on injured reserve and is out for the season.
"You lose a great player like Dwight Freeney, it's a blow to your team,"
Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. "When you lose one of the greatest players of
all-time on your team, with an injury like that, in a game, that's tough."
McCoy, who spent last season as Peyton Manning's offensive coordinator in
Denver, has had a similarly rejuvenating impact on veteran San Diego passer
Philip Rivers and the rest of the Chargers offense.
San Diego is seventh of 32 teams in scoring offense and eighth in total
offense. The Chargers are sixth in passing yardage, second in passing
touchdowns and second in yardage per pass attempt.
Rivers has 35-for-42 for 401 yards and three TDs against Dallas -- the highest
completion percentage (83.3) in league history for a game in which the QB
registered at least 400 yards.
For the season, he's second behind Manning in percentage, TDs and passer
Tight end Antonio Gates had 10 catches for 136 yards and a score last week,
continuing a three-game stretch in which he has 23 receptions for 315 yards.
"I feel in sync," Rivers said. "I have a rhythm and I'm comfortable in the
pocket when we get that no-huddle going."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
While the Chargers have returned to prolific when moving the ball, they have
yet to return to past vintage when it comes to keeping others from doing the
Because of this, and assuming he's healthy, Pryor may have a chance to do some
damage with his arm and legs, as he's done through three starts thus far in
2013. With No. 1 back McFadden on the mend, expect Pryor to carry the load and
work with McFadden fill-in Jennings to a large extent.
As mentioned earlier, Rivers is looking a lot more like the guy who used to be
mentioned near the same breaths as guys like Brady and Manning. Unless the
four-week hot streak he's been on suddenly comes to an end, he probably has a
good chance to repeat past big numbers against the Raiders -- whom he's beaten
six of seven times in Oakland while averaging better than 300 yards per
The Chargers were forecasted as a second-division team by most heading into
this season, so the no-huddle entertainment they've provided thus far has been
a pleasant surprise.
Even if it's a mirage, however, that doesn't figure to be revealed against a
Raiders team that, while playing at home, is significantly dinged-up and has
yet to beat a team that's not based in Jacksonville.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Chargers 24, Raiders 21
10/03 12:45:18 ET