NT Jamal Williams (Donald Miralle/Getty)
The Chargers breathed a sigh of relief after last week's win over the New York Jets, but a loss this weekend in Oakland would drop the Chargers right back into a cavernous hole. Samantha Fillerup profiles five players who must play well to keep the Chargers moving in the right direction.
1. Jamal Williams has the responsibility of putting a damper on a Raiders rushing attack that ranks in the NFL's top-three. Justin Fargas is out with a groin injury, but the 1-2 punch of Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will provide the Chargers with a stiff challenge.
The Raiders have fielded a dominant running game since offensive line coach Tom Cable instituted his zone-blocking scheme. Williams must bring his A-game to prevent the Raiders from getting on a roll, which may be difficult given his two achy knees. Williams has recorded three tackles and no sacks so far this season after tallying 39 tackles in 2007.
2. Jyles Tucker finally played up to his potential in Week 2, snaring two sacks against soon-to-be Hall of Famer Brett Favre. He seems to have found his niche in the rotation after getting extended playing time over the last two games.
Tucker must keep his momentum going in Oakland, where defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell will dial up the pressure in an attempt to rattle second-year quarterback JaMarcus Russell. That strategy worked last season; in a Week 17 matchup, Tucker racked up three sacks, a forced fumble and a touchdown.
3. Chris Chambers immediately made his mark with the Chargers after coming over in a midseason trade last season. In 2007, Chambers hauled in multiple receptions in every game as a Charger. In 2008, Chambers has been limited to a single catch twice, but Chargers fans aren't complaining.
Chambers has become a touchdown machine, taking four of his six catches into the end zone. He has touchdowns in five consecutive games dating back to last season. He averages 25.7 yards per catch, ranking second in the NFL among receivers with six or more catches. On Sunday, Chambers will try to burn talented but inconsistent cornerback DeAngelo Hall.
4. LaDainian Tomlinson has dominated the Raiders during 14 career matchups, ringing up 1,709 rushing yards and 16 TDs. However, the Raiders could catch a break this week as LT is still recovering from a toe injury that has hindered his mobility and speed.
Against the New York Jets, Tomlinson averaged only 2.7 yards per carry. On Sunday, Tomlinson will aim to push that number closer to his career average of 4.5 yards. It should help that run-stuffing DT Gerard Warren (6-foot-4, 325 pounds) is expected to miss the game with a chest injury.
5. Buster Davis rose from the dead against the Jets, catching his first three passes of the season for a total of 43 yards. Each of Davis' grabs came on third down and each of them moved the sticks.
Davis may be called upon to make an impact out of the slot against the Raiders. Oakland has two talented cornerbacks on the outside, Hall and Nnamdi Asomugha, so look for Philip Rivers to attack the middle of the field. Davis may also get the chance to contribute as a punt returner. Davis' career punt return average (8.4 yards) is still higher than Darren Sproles' average of 8.1 yards.