Chargers vs. Raiders -- Week 1
Where: O.co. Coliseum, Oakland, Calif. (outdoors, grass)
When: Monday, 10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Spread: Raiders by 1
Forecast: Partly cloudy with a 10 percent chance of rain; projected kickoff temperature: low-60s.
2011 records: Chargers (8-8); Raiders (8-8)
Past results: Two most recent meetings -- Jan. 1, 2012: Chargers 38, Raiders 26; Nov. 10, 2011: Raiders 24, Chargers 17. Series record: Raiders hold a 58-45-2 edge and 1-0 postseason advantage. The Chargers have won 14 of the last 17, including a stretch of 13-straight from 2003-2009.
What matters: A lot has changed since last year’s high scoring finale. Both teams are retooled for 2012 and look to be dramatically improved on defense. For the Raiders: Reggie McKenzie took over as general manager, a post held by Al Davis for almost five decades until he passed away in 2011. Dennis Allen, 39, will make his debut as the youngest head coach in the NFL. The Oakland Raiders have 23 new players on their roster including all five cornerbacks. For the Chargers: John Pagano was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. The Chargers have 16 new players, including a dozen veteran free agents. The defense was restocked with high drafts picks in outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (round one, 18th overall) and defensive end Kendall Reyes (round two, 49th overall) and veteran free agents outside linebacker Jarrett Johnson, strong safety Atari Bigby and nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin. Outside linebackers Larry English and Shaun Phillips are also healthy after finishing last season on the IR list with foot injuries.
Who matters: Quarterback Philip Rivers threw 20 interceptions in 2011, a career high. Rivers and Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer each threw an NFL high four INTs in preseason. If Rivers can avoid the pick, the Chargers have an excellent chance of winning.
Key matchups: Chargers left tackle Mike Harris (undrafted, UCLA) vs. Raiders defensive end Matt Shaughnessy. Harris will play in place of left tackle Jared Gaither,who has been out since the start of training camp with back spasms. Harris has struggled at times against the pass rush in preseason. Coach Allen said he will put Harris to the test and that responsibility will fall to Shaughnessy.
Injuries of note: Running back Ryan Mathews (broken clavicle) is out after being limited in practice for the entire week. Running back Ronnie Brown will get the start with Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley also seeing touches. Nose tackle Antonio Garay is listed as questionable. If Garay doesn't play, Franklin and Cam Thomas will share reps.
Inside stuff: Coach Norv Turner hasn't disclosed who will handle the kick-return duties. WR-KR Richard Goodman had a 105-yard kickoff return for a TD against the Raiders in their last game but was sidelined with a groin injury for most of preseason. The Chargers added WR-KR Micheal Spurlock, who has three returns for scores -- two kickoffs and a punt. Spurlock revealed on Friday that Goodman will handle the majority of the returns on kickoffs while Spurlock will primarily block.
Connections: Norv Turner is a native of Martinez, Calif., where he grew up attending Raiders games and spent the 2004-05 season as the Raiders coach. Turner and Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer are next door neighbors in Del Mar, Calif.
Stat you should know: A significant amount of time was spent throughout the offseason working on third-down defense. In 2011, the Chargers defense allowed opponents to convert 49.2 percent of third downs. It was the most inept third-down defense of any NFL team since 1995 and the worst in franchise history since 1975, when opposing offenses converted 50.7 percent.
Record watch: Fifteen-year veteran inside linebacker Takeo Spikes is slated to make his 200th career start on Monday. The Chargers have scored a TD in 149 straight games. The Browns (166, from 1957-69) are the only team in history to score a TD in 150 consecutive games. With a Chargers win, Turner (111) will tie former Raiders coach and TV announcer John Madden (112) for the 33rd-most career wins by an NFL coach.
Holy Roller anniversary: Monday marks the 34th anniversary of “The Holy Roller,” one of the most famous endings to any game in pro football history. At home, the Chargers were up 20-14 with 10 seconds remaining. The Raiders had possession at San Diego’s 14-yard line when Chargers LB Woodrow Lowe had apparently sacked Raiders QB Ken Stabler to end the game. Before Stabler hit the ground, he intentionally fumbled the ball forward. Raiders RB Pete Banaszak attempted to pick the ball up on the 12-yard line, but stumbled and ended up knocking it forward. TE Dave Casper reached the ball on the 2-yard line and batted it into the end zone where he fell on it for the game winning TD.
The play continues to haunt Chargers fans and the players who played in the game. “It still blows my mind how the referees could not see what it was or discern exactly what happened,” QB Dan Fouts said in a Distant Replay video documenting the event. “Woodrow Lowe clearly got a sack on Stabler, and he shuffled the ball forward. It wasn’t a fumble; I mean he threw the ball.”
See the play on YouTube: The famous Holy Roller game (Raiders at Chargers, 1978)
The San Diego Chicken was also incensed, saying, “I can’t think of a more outrageous form of Raider thievery and cheating that has ever occurred.”
Monday’s game will be officiated by replacement refs.
Looking ahead: It’s widely believed coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will be fired if the Chargers don't make the playoffs this season. A loss to a divisional opponent to start the season would be a huge step in the wrong direction. The Chargers should be favored at home next week against the Titans, but after that every game until the bye in Week 7 is against stiff opponents.
Prediction: Chargers 16, Raiders 13