Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers: Keys to the Game

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Oct 4, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32) celebrates with fans as he runs to the locker room after the Chargers beat the Cleveland Browns 30-27 at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

1. Exploit Chargers’ Injuries

The Chargers come into the game riddled with injuries to key players, with many key role players and starters listed as questionable, doubtful or out for the game. While the Raiders have a few injury issues of their own, the Chargers are down almost a whole offense, and the Raiders must take advantage of their lack of depth and matchup advantages this week.

The Chargers have struggled all year with injuries on the offensive line, limiting their ability to run the ball and protect quarterback Philip Rivers. While it seems that DJ Fluker will be back in the lineup this week, left tackle King Dunlap and center Chris Watt are both questionable. While Watt may be able to tough it out through a groin injury, Dunlap is under the NFL’s concussion protocol and will likely remain sidelined.

The injury bug has spread throughout the Chargers offense, however, sidelining many of their key weapons. Wideout Keenan Allen, who just a week ago had a monster 14 catch game, is listed as questionable with a hip injury though he did practice in a limited fashion on Friday.

Future Hall of Fame TE Antonio Gates is also listed as questionable with an MCL sprain, and has not practiced this week, meaning Ladarius Green will become the Chargers’ primary TE. Chargers wideout Stevie Johnson and running back Melvin Gordon are also listed as questionable, though Johnson was a full practice participant on Friday and will likely play on Sunday.

Meanwhile the news isn’t much better for the Chargers on defense. Starting safety Eric Weddle has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game while starting inside linebacker Manti Te’o is listed as doubtful and has not practiced all week. This leaves some significant holes in a Chargers’ defensive unit that has some pretty extensive flaws even when at full strength.

The injuries to Gates and Allen are great news to the Raiders secondary, themselves an injury-riddled unit who has struggled all season. Now, Ken Norton can scheme against Malcolm Floyd and put Neiron Ball on the capable Ladarius Green, and force Philip Rivers to beat the Raiders by throwing to a limited Stevie Johnson, assuming he even plays.

The Chargers will also have a hard time blocking Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith on the edge using Joe Barksdale and Chris Hairston, meaning Green will likely need to stay in and block or at least chip and delay release in a lot of passing plays.

The loss of Weddle and Te’o looms large for a struggling Chargers defensive unit who has not stopped the run yet this year, and the Raiders will likely look to test the Chargers interior run defense early and often with a fully healthy Latavius Murray.

Weddle’s absence may also leave the Chargers secondary open to exploitation deep by Derek Carr once the Raiders have established the ground game, and we could see a nice deep Carr to Cooper bomb unleashed more than once in this one. The Raiders will have matchup advantages all over the field this week, they need to take advantage.

Next: Keys to the Game: Don't Underestimate Ladarius Green