It has been a rough year for every team in the AFC West not named the Denver Broncos. But finally, it can all come to a close and the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders can battle it out for bragging rights. The Chargers topped the Raiders 22-14 to open up the 2012 season, but things went downhill as the team sits with a 6-9 record and questions about Norv Turner's role in the organization popped up again.
Meanwhile, all was mostly good in Raider Nation until October turned into November. After beating the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 28, the Raiders lost six straight, ending the losing streak on Dec. 16 against none other than the Chiefs. Now that the season has been done for awhile, the beaten and battered Raiders are turning to quarterback Terrelle Pryor to try and show Oakland that there is a brighter future buried somewhere in the mess.
Meet the Chargers
The Chargers have one of the best rush defenses in the league, only allowing 95.1 yards a game. Unfortunately, it hasn't coincided with a fantastic secondary that ranks in the bottom half of the league. But the real struggles for the Chargers have come from the offensive end of the unit. San Diego ranks 23rd in the NFL in passing and 27th in rushing. Broken clavicles galore for Ryan Mathews didn't help the cause too much, and it has been a rough year for quarterback Philip Rivers.
Rivers has been sacked 47 times this season, good for tops in the NFL. Part of that has also led to Rivers fumbling the ball 15 times this season -- also tops in the NFL. It hasn't all been bad for the Chargers, however. Wide receiver Danario Alexander came back from injury with a fury in November and quickly established a connection with Rivers. Alexander has 36 receptions for 624 yards and six touchdowns over nine games.
Meet the Raiders
Injuries haven't done the Raiders any favors this year. Although they are a top 10 passing team, the running game is near the bottom of the NFL -- averaging just 87 yards a game. Much of this can be linked to the absence of both running backs Mike Goodson and Darren McFadden, who each played in just 11 games. Even when they played, they still struggled. McFadden failed to eclipse 60 rushing yards seven times this season.
Quarterback Carson Palmer has thrown over 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns but his is now finished after he broke his ribs and bruised a lung against the Carolina Panthers last week. In his stead, the Raiders are giving Terrelle Pryor his first NFL start (over Matt Leinart) to try and see if the future will be any brighter for the silver and black.
Local Takes: Chargers
John Gennaro from Bolts from the Blue says this the game really has no meaning for Norv Turners' job.
Norv Turner knows he won't be back next season. A win over a division rival in (probably) his last game as a Head Coach and definitely his last game as Head Coach of the San Diego Chargers would be a decent ending. He'll be playing his veterans and star players as much as possible to make sure that he goes out on top instead of with a loss to the Raiders.
Local Takes: Raiders
Levi Damien of Silver and Black Pride says it's an important game to determine Pryor's role with the Raiders going forward.
This will be the first start of Pryor's career. The Raiders want to get a long look at him to help them decide what his future holds. Whether it be a future starter in Oakland, a position change, or trade bait. How he plays in this game will go a long way to helping them evaluate him.
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Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Bolts From the Blue, Silver and Black Pride, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
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@UTgehlken - Chargers beat reporter
Chargers a carousel at left tackle all year. Starters past 4 games: Michael Harris; Kevin Haslam; Haslam; Harris. Haslam expected Sunday.— Michael Gehlken (@UTgehlken) December 27, 2012
How can Pryor go from not ready to be a backup to potential starter? Sounds like it was the film of Leinart vs. Carolina.— Jerry McDonald (@Jerrymcd) December 26, 2012
From the Week 17 picks:
Shield your eyes!!!!
The pick: 30-13, Chargers
Luckily for the fan bases of both teams, the Chargers and the Raiders both finish their seasons after Sunday.