The AFC West was supposed to be one of, if not, the worst divisions in all of football this season. Through a quarter of the season, an argument could be made that it is the best.
When the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders meet on Sunday night (the game start time is 11:35 p.m. ET) at O.co Coliseum, both teams will be trying to keep pace in the West behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos. Both Denver and Kansas City are undefeated at 4-0, while San Diego could be if not for a few breakdowns.
Instead, the Bolts find themselves 2-2 while the Raiders come in at a very competitive 1-3. A loss in this game for either team could be devastating, and a win could catapult the Chargers toward the AFC playoff picture and the Raiders toward respectability.
Meet the Chargers
San Diego was projected by almost everyone to be one of the five worst teams in the AFC under new head coach Mike McCoy. Instead, Chargers fans have seen a revival of quarterback Philip Rivers. Following two subpar seasons from Rivers, the North Carolina State product has come out guns blazing in 2013.
Thus far, Rivers has thrown for 1,199 yards, ranking seventh in the league. At 8.44 yards per attempt, Rivers only trails Peyton Manning, Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. The most impressive stats are his 11 touchdowns to only two interceptions.
On defense, San Diego has been a disaster. The Chargers have given up 432.3 yards per game, ranking them 30th in the league. Both facets of the game has been a problem on defense, coming in 25th against the run and 29th versus the pass. Part of the issue has been up front, with a lack of a pass rush; the team has only nine sacks.
Meet the Raiders
Oakland has found a potential quarterback in Terrelle Pryor. When the Raiders took Pryor in the supplemental draft, most thought it was a typical Al Davis overreaction to speed and measurables. Now, it appears Pryor may have the rare blend of a strong, accurate arm and athleticism.
Pryor missed last week against the Washington Redskins due to a concussion, but before that, he was keeping the Raiders exciting and sometimes potent. Pryor has completed 65.4 percent of his passes while amassing 624 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions.
The problem has been his supporting case, namely a non-existent vertical threat. Pryor has been good about hitting the short throws, but does not have someone to hit deep. Many of the receivers, including Denarius Moore, have plenty of speed, but it has not translated in the way of a threat down the field.
Local take: Chargers
Over at Bolts From The Blue, we get a C+ for the Chargers through four games:
This is a 2-2 team after the first quarter of the season. The point differential after 4 games is +6. While fans can (rightly) point out that the team is two plays away from a 4-0 record, it is just as true that the team is 2-3 plays away from being 0-4. I and other staff writers expected the team to be 1-3 at this point, hence the "+" added to the C. The offense to this point is a good surprise, while the performance of the defense has been disappointing. With the schedule for the next 4 games, a 3-1 record is not unrealistic. If the Bolts can go 5-3 over the first 8 games of the season, I would expect the grades to improve for some units that really need to perform better for that success.
Local take: Raiders
Levi Damien of Silver And Black Pride writes about just how bad Matt Flynn was Sunday:
If there was any doubt just how disastrous the start by Matt Flynn was on Sunday, there should be no more doubt left in your mind. As of Wednesday, the first practice since the game, Flynn has been demoted to third string behind undrafted rookie Matt McGloin.
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The Raiders are not as bad as originally thought with a solid front seven on defense and a dangerous quarterback. The problem is a truly unwatchable secondary against Rivers. The only chance Oakland has in this game is to hit Rivers early and often, which is possible against a mediocre San Diego offensive line. Still, it is hard to pick against the better team with a better quarterback.
Pick: Chargers 30, Raiders 23
The Chargers are favored by 2.5 points on the road, according to Oddsshark.com.
The Raiders will be on the road to take on Kansas City, and the Chargers host another Monday night game against the Indianapolis Colts.