ALAMEDA -- There has not been a bigger game for the Raiders since the 2002 Super Bowl season.So of course it comes down to the Raiders and San Diego.Still, the Raiders not only need to sweep the Chargers for the second straight season after dropping 13 in a row to their SoCal rivals; Oakland needs to win and hope for help.To win the AFC West, the Raiders need to win and have Kansas City beat Denverin Denver.To win a wild card spot, the Raiders need to win and have Cincinnati lose at home to Baltimore and have Tennessee lose or tie Houston or have the New York Jets win at Miami.Sounds as simple as having Mike Mitchell shut down Antonio Gates, right?A look, then, at some key on-field matchups to watch Sunday afternoon from the O.co Coliseum:Raiders running back Michael Bush (29) vs. Chargers outside linebacker Shaun Phillips (95).TALE OF THE TAPEPalmer: 6-5, 235, USC, ninth seasonPhillips: 6-3, 250, Purdue, eighth seasonPalmer has absolutely owned the Chargers in his career.Phillips has 11 12 sacks against the Raiders in his career.Something has to give, no?"It's interesting, because last year they were the No. 1 team in the league in defenseand they've got the same players, for the most part, and we have a great deal of respect for what they can do," said Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders. "They're 10th in the league against the pass, 212 yards a game against the pass, and those are pretty strong numbers. And they can be pretty physical up front as a defensive unit."They're a very, very good defense when they're in sync andwe're going to have our work cut out for us."The same could be said for Phillips, who is officially listed as probable with a balky back, and the entire Chargers defense, which will be without linebacker Travis LaBoy and his injured knee, against Palmer.Consider: in four career starts against the Chargers, Palmer has a 129.5 passer rating in completing 88 of 123 passes (71.5 percent) for 1,322 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.Earlier in the week, coach Hue Jackson said Palmer was acquired for precisely this type of game. No pressure, right?"Pressure is part of the position," Palmer said. "I've been playing it for a long time and understand and know that that doesn't need to be said to me by the coach, and I understand that."If anything, it's always fun to play against your hometown team, you know? For whatever reason, we've matched up well and made plays. But this is a team that can make quarterbacks look bad."On Nov. 10, Palmer threw for 299 yards on 14 of 20 passing with two TDs and an interception in the Raiders' 24-17 victory at Qualcomm Stadium.Phillips, though, did not play in that game."He's definitely a difference maker," Palmer saidOther matchups worth watching: Raiders running back Michael Bush (29) vs. Chargers inside linebacker Takeo Spikes (51) -- While Spikes' playoff-less streak has reached 14 seasons, Bush is closing in on a personal milestone -- he needs 89 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season. Not a shabby accomplishment considering he did not become the Raiders' starting running back until Week 9, after Darren McFadden went down.The 6-feet-2, 242-pound Spikes leads the Chargers with 111 tackles and with the 6-1, 245-pound Bush a more straight-ahead runner, they are sure to collide.Especially since Bush rumbled for 242 all-purpose yards (157 yards rushing, 85 yards receiving) the last time the two teams met, the most for a Raiders player since 1963.And Spikes missed the second half with a concussion.Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley (96) vs. Chargers left tackle Jared Gaither (78) -- Wimbley had a career-high four sacks against the Chargers back on Nov. 10. Gaither was not with the Chargers at the time.In fact, Gaither was thisclose to signing with the Raiders in training camp.The 6-9, 340-pounder signed with Kansas City instead, was waived by the Chiefs on Nov. 29 and was picked up by the banged-up Chargers a day later."I don't know what we would have done had he not become available," Chargers coach Norv Turner said in a conference call with Bay Area reporters this week. "He really solidified our offensive line and we responded."Indeed. Gaither has yielded only two pressures in four games.Said the 6-4, 255-pound Wimbley: "He has all the told you need to be a successful offensive tackle and he's done well. He has played well since he's been there, and he'll continue to do so."
STANFORD – Todd Downing has long been responsible for intently analyzing college quarterbacks entering the NFL Draft. He certainly did so during two seasons as Raiders quarterbacks coach, adding input to personnel department evaluations on young signal callers.
This offseason, he’s using a wide-angle lens. Downing is the Raiders offensive coordinator now, promoted to the position after Bill Musgrave was allowed to leave on an expired contract.
Coaches enter the draft evaluation process relatively late – they have a season to coach, after all – but Downing prides himself on working hard in evaluating talent. Working with general manager Reggie McKenzie’s staff, coaches feel like their voice is being heard.
That’s important to a coordinator especially, who must make a scheme work with talent around him.
“Reggie and his staff have always done a tremendous job of listening to our vision for the offense or the defense,” Downing said Thursday at Stanford’s pro day. “It’s been a joy to work with those guys over the past three years.
“(Head coach Jack Del Rio) really expects us to be accountable for our position group. Now that I’m the coordinator, there’s more of a broad scope when looking at offensive talent in the draft. When you work that hard (evaluating players), I think the scouts know that your opinion is well grounded, and that validates it a little bit.”
Downing is always on the lookout for weapons, especially while making tweaks to the Raiders offense. The Silver and Black found a few, adding tight end Jared Cook, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, offensive lineman Marshal Newhouse and quarterback EJ Manuel.
Quarterback Derek Carr helped him get some. The full-time East Bay resident has been active recruiting free agents, trying to improve an already strong Raiders offense.
“You guys know how passionate he is about this game, and about this team and backing up this franchise,” Downing said. “(His involvement in recruiting) didn’t surprise any of us. He’s pretty hands on when it comes to football. He lives in the area, so he hopped in when we needed it and it paid off.”
Cook and Patterson especially could add dimensions to a well-rounded Raiders attack. Cook has made some big plays in the past, and should be a reliable receiving tight end the Raiders have lacked in recent seasons.
“He has a skill set that will be fun to play with (schematically),” Downing said. “We’re excited to see what he can do, and I know Derek is excited to add him. He has a history of making plays in this league, and that’s something we’re excited to have.”
Patterson’s primarily known as a kick returner – he’s a two-time All Pro on special teams – but the Raiders hope he’ll be active on offense.
“With guys like that, you just find a way to get them the rock and let them do the rest of the work,” Downing said. “They make me look good. I can call a simple play and he takes it the distance and it looks like I designed something special.”
A week after signing a deal with the Vikings, former Raiders running back Latavius Murray has undergone ankle surgery.
The Vikings made the announcement Wednesday afternoon.
Minnesota issued the following statement regarding the surgery:
"Vikings RB Latavius Murray had successful ankle surgery today. The surgery was performed by Dr. Bob Anderson in Charlotte, North Carolina. We were aware of the required surgery prior to signing Latavius on March 16. Latavius is expected to fully recover and be available for training camp."
Murray's deal with the Vikings is reported worth $15 million over three years, but can reportedly be voied after the first year.
Drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Murray became the Raiders' primary running back midway through the 2015 season. In his three years in Oakland, Murray carried the ball 543 times for 2,278 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl in 2015.