OAKLAND RAIDERS (6-9) AT LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (8-7)
SERIES HISTORY: 115th regular-series meeting. Raiders lead series, 63-51-2. Oakland had won four straight before the Chargers prevailed 17-16 on a late field goal in Oakland earlier this season. One of the most crushing losses in the Chargers' history came in the 1980 AFC Championship Game when the Raiders beat the "Air Coryell" Chargers 34-27.
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Chargers have a chance to make the playoffs and know they need to take care of their end. That means Philip Rivers will have to shine.
Melvin Gordon is ailing with a bum ankle and probably won't hold up over four quarters. If Gordon can't go, Branden Oliver will get the call. But Rivers will do the heavy lifting against an improved Oakland defense.
The Raiders are in an excellent stretch, giving up 287 yards per game with John Pagano in charge. Khalil Mack has moved around and Bruce Irvin has rushed the passer more frequently, and the increased pass rush has forced quarterbacks into mistakes. Rivers had no interceptions in the first meeting, but the Raiders will hope their rush changes that this time.
The Raiders have understood for weeks they are no longer the high-flying offense they were a season ago. They'll look to gain yards on the ground, running at Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, giving Marshawn Lynch plenty of work and hoping to keep Derek Carr from making the mistakes that have marred his season.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Chargers QB Philip Rivers vs. Raiders' pass defense. Rivers has been good and the team is basically hanging its hopes on him here. He'll have most of his receivers -- save TE Hunter Henry. But he'll be matching wits with a coach who knows him very well. Keeping Khalil Mack and others out of Rivers' area is the key.
--Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch vs. Chargers' run defense. The Chargers have been up and down with every aspect of their performance this season -- except their run defense. They have yet to find a way to stop other teams, and here comes Lynch. Many thought Lynch would be worn out at this stage of the season, but he's still leaving would-be tacklers in his wake. The Chargers haven't responded well against physical backs this season.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORTS
--Out: DT Treyvon Hester (ankle)
--Doubtful: T Vadal Alexander (concussion)
--Questionable: CB David Amerson (foot), CB Dexter McDonald (knee), T David Sharpe (illness)
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
--Out: S Adrian Phillips (ankle)
--Questionable: RB Melvin Gordon (ankle), DT Corey Liuget (knee), T Russell Okung (groin), LB Denzel Perryman (hamstring)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Chargers CB Casey Hayward. Hayward has followed his first Pro Bowl season with another solid campaign as he leads a secondary that hasn't allowed a 100-yard receiver all year. Hayward will be matched against Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, depending on their health. Hayward is seldom off the field, and he leads the AFC with 24 passes defensed and is tied for sixth with four interceptions.
FAST FACTS: Oakland QB Derek Carr has four touchdowns and one interception in three career road games against the Chargers. ... RB Marshawn Lynch rushed for 95 yards last week. He has two touchdowns in three games vs. the Chargers. ... LB Bruce Irvin aims for his third game in a row against the Chargers with a sack. ... Chargers QB Philip Rivers passed for 268 yards and a touchdown in the last meeting. ... RB Melvin Gordon had 128 yards from scrimmage and ran for a touchdown last week. ... WR Keenan Allen has 28 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns in his past three games at home. ... DE Joey Bosa has four sacks and two forced fumbles in his past four home games. ... DE Melvin Ingram has two sacks and two forced fumbles in his past four games vs. Oakland.
PREDICTION: The Chargers need help, but they still have something to play for. The Raiders have looked cooked for a few weeks. This one could be a blowout.
OUR PICK: Chargers, 31-9.