The Chargers (7-7) kept their long-shot playoff chances alive by stunning Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 27-20 a week ago Thursday. They then got no help from Miami and Baltimore, which both held on for last-second wins to keep their postseason chances looking good.
The Chargers say they’re focused on beating the Raiders (4-10), but they’ll no doubt be scoreboard-watching while warming up Sunday. The Dolphins play at Buffalo at 10 a.m. PST. Baltimore’s home game against New England starts at the same time as the Raiders-Chargers game.
The Chargers have no one to blame but themselves for the likelihood they’ll miss the playoffs a fourth straight year. Yes, they had riveting wins at Kansas City and Denver, both of which have secured playoff spots, and beat AFC South champion Indianapolis.
But they lost four times in five games in November and early December, including at Miami and at Washington. The Chargers had the ball first-and-goal at the Washington 1 and had to settle for a tying field goal before losing in overtime. Ryan Mathews, who’s reached 1,000 yards rushing for the second time in his four-year career, wasn’t on the field for that ill-fated offensive series.
“There’s nothing we can do to change them,” Philip Rivers said of the losses, which also included an opening-night setback to Houston, which has won only once since then. “I think that’s just natural to reflect back on games that you didn’t finish or let get away that you know have caused you to be in the bind you are. But what I think is most important for our team is to try to win another division game and get to 8-7.”
Oh, and the Chargers also lost 27-17 at Oakland on Oct. 6, perhaps their most miserable defeat of the year. They had five turnovers.
The Raiders are coming off a 56-31 loss to Kansas City in which they allowed Jamaal Charles to score five touchdowns.
“We haven’t played as well the last couple of weeks, so we need to go out there and put a good performance out there,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said.
Here are five things to watch for when the Raiders visit the Chargers in a matchup of original AFL teams:
LONG SHOTS: The Chargers’ chances of making the playoffs have reached slim and are approaching none. In order to avoid missing the postseason for the fourth straight season, the Chargers have to beat the Raiders and then win at home against Kansas City, and have Miami and Baltimore either lose or tie their remaining games.
RAIDERS QBS: Matt McGloin is still the starter but Terrelle Pryor is expected to get some special package plays. While the offense scored a season-high 31 points last Sunday, the play wasn’t much better than the defense, with McGloin throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble, and Pryor also throwing an interception. McGloin started and played 65 snaps, while Pryor got in for 15 in a seemingly haphazard rotation aimed at catching the defense off-guard. On one drive, the Raiders went from McGloin to Pryor and back to McGloin. It paid off in a touchdown, but the offense found little rhythm for most of the game.
In the win against San Diego in October, Pryor threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter and then set up a late field goal by turning a potential sack into a third-and-long conversion.
DARREN MCFADDEN: Running back Darren McFadden has begun what could be the final countdown to a mostly disappointing career with the Raiders. The fourth overall pick in 2008, McFadden has missed six games this season with hamstring and ankle injuries, continuing a frustrating pattern that has plagued him throughout his six years in the NFL. McFadden has never played a full 16-game schedule and sat out 19 of Oakland’s past 39 games.
KEENAN ALLEN: With 63 catches for 931 yards, the Chargers’ wide receiver has already broken LaDainian Tomlinson’s team record for receptions by a rookie. He needs 71 yards to break John Jefferson’s team rookie record of 1,001 yards receiving. He’s got a shot at winning the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
RYAN MATHEWS: The Chargers running back continues his strong season. He carried 58 times for 230 yards in victories against the New York Giants and Broncos in a five-game span. He has 1,012 yards overall, including five 100-yard games.