Five to Watch: Raiders vs. Bolts

LB Tim Dobbins (Doug Pensinger/Getty)

The San Diego Chargers face the Oakland Raiders for a second time this season and hope to snap out of a three-game losing skid. Samantha Fillerup profiles five players who must raise their games to make it happen.

1. Even in a down year, LaDainian Tomlinson owns the Oakland Raiders. He has only topped 100 yards twice this season, with one of those games coming in Oakland. Tomlinson has posted 1,815 rushing yards and 18 TDs in his career against the Raiders, the most against any opponent. He also has three four-TD games against Oakland, as well as a career-best 243-yard outing back in 2003.

Oakland's rushing defense appears primed for more abuse, allowing an average of 158.8 rushing yards (No. 29). San Diego, however, has not exactly been a juggernaut when it comes to running the ball -- the Chargers rank No. 26 in rushing offense and are one of just nine teams to average less than 4 yards per carry.

2. As the man responsible for calling out blocking schemes and blitz pickups, Nick Hardwick must step up his game after watching QB Philip Rivers get sacked five times over the last two weeks. Rivers struggles enough against the Raiders as it is; in their last three meetings, Rivers has completed less than 60 percent of his passes for an average of 157 yards per game.

Hardwick will face DT Terdell Sands (6-foot-7, 335 pounds), who has always given the Chargers fits inside. Sands posted five tackles and two sacks in his last game against the Chargers, which was Hardwick's first game back after offseason foot surgery. Hopefully for the Chargers, Hardwick's improved health nets a better result.


Cletis Gordon
Greg Trott/Getty

3. Cletis Gordon, who has impressed the coaches in limited playing time this season, is ready to roll again after spraining his knee in Week 10. He has four games left in the season to demonstrate his value to the team -- a good showing may prompt GM A.J. Smith to shop Antonio Cromartie this offseason.

Gordon has a great chance to show his stuff this week, as the Raiders come in with the NFL's worst pass offense (139.5 yards per game). Nonetheless, QB JaMarcus Russell has made good decisions with the ball, throwing just four interceptions all season.

4. Igor Olshansky has been quiet this season but needs to make some noise versus the Raiders, who will attempt to run the ball and keep the Chargers offense off the field. Olshansky is just four games away from unrestricted free agency and should be motivated to show some signs of life to potential employers. Olshansky is on pace to finish with 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks this season, marking the worst per-game numbers of his career.

Oakland's two-headed rushing attack, led by Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas, ranks No. 10 with an average of 123.8 yards per game. Olshansky will be pitted against LT Kwame Harris, one of the softest starting offensive linemen in the NFL.

5. Tim Dobbins is adept at defending the run but has been a millstone in pass coverage. The Chargers replace Dobbins with Matt Wilhelm in obvious passing situations, but opponents are targeting Dobbins on early downs. If Dobbins cannot show he is capable of getting downfield and making plays in space, San Diego may be forced to acquire a more complete inside linebacker in the offseason.

Keep an eye on Dobbins when he's matched up with TE Zach Miller. Miller had a field day against the Chargers in Week 4, setting season-highs in receptions (five) and yards (95), while adding his only touchdown of the season.

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