ALAMEDA -- With tales of locker room discord, curious personnel decisions and a short work week enveloping Silver and Blackdom, the banged-up Raiders (a mind numbing 17 players appeared on the injury report this week, with 11 not practicing) face a potentially season-defining game tonight.On prime time. At a heated division rival. With questions abounding.
Win, and the Raiders take the lead in the AFC West. Lose, and the Raiders drop their third straight game in the division.
A look, then, at some key on-field matchups to watch Thursday night in San Diego:Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer (3) vs. Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (32)TALE OF THE TAPEPalmer: 6-5, 235, USC, ninth seasonWeddle: 5-11, 200, Utah, fifth seasonThe book on Palmer, who will be making his second career start for Oakland, throughout his career has been that while he can often put up gaudy stat lines, he has not won big. His numbers against the Chargers are a microcosm of that claim.In three career starts against San Diego, Palmer has completed 74 of 103 pass attempts (71.8 percent) for 1,023 yards with nine touchdowns and only one interception for a 128.4 passer rating. His career-high 440-yard passing day came against the Chargers on Nov. 12, 2006.Yet his career record against San Diego? Just 1-2."I mean, every year's a new year," Palmer said this week. "Whether it's a new coordinator, new players, free agent pickups, drafted players, whatever it may be, new scheme, so every year's a new year and you have to treat it like it's a new team, a different team, because it is. This is a different team than it was last year. The San Diego Chargers are a different team than they were last. So you have to study, you got to understand what they're trying to do, what they're trying to take away and what they're going to give up and just get ready to play."
RELATED: Raiders midseason report: Defense
Palmer has thrown six interception in six quarters of play with the Raiders. Surely, that has to have Weddle licking his chops, right? After all, Weddle is tied for the NFL lead with five interceptions.Especially if the Raiders' offensive gameplan has them getting into a shootout with the Chargers.Other matchups worth watching:
Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt (26) vs. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) -- Was Rivers simply engaging in some gamesmanship this week when he compares Routt to former Raiders All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha?Or was Rivers simply giving credit where credit is due?Besides, Rivers was that rare QB who dared venture to Asomugha's side of the field when he faced the Raiders. So why shouldn't he attack Routt, who has indeed been afforded some of the same respect given Asomugha in terms of gameplans shying away from his side?
RELATED: Raiders midseason report: Offense
Rivers is 8-2 in his career against the Raiders, with both of this losses coming last year. Still, he averaged 377 passing yards in those two defeats. And he has an 87.8 passer rating against Oakland in his career with 12 TDs and seven INTs.Routt, meanwhile, is allowing a relatively minuscule 4.6 yards per catch, according to STATS LLC. Asomugha? He's giving up 9.3 yards per catch.
RELATED: Raiders midseason report: Special teams
Raiders running back Michael Bush (29) vs. Chargers inside linebacker Takeo Spikes (51) -- Darren McFadden will miss his second straight game (really, his third since he initially sprained his right foot in the Raiders' first series against Kansas City on Oct. 23) so the bulk of the running duties will again fall on the sturdy shoulders of Bush.And he'll see a somewhat familiar face between the tackles in Spikes, who spent the previous three years across the Bay with the 49ers.The 6-2, 242-pound Spikes is leading the Chargers with 67 tackles.The 6-1, 245-pound Bush has run for 199 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games against the Chargers, 195 yards in his past two games overall and had his first career TD catch last week.Something has to give, right?