The Raiders have a number of internal things to deal with this week, including a new head coach, an injured starting quarterback, no running game and an ineffective defense.
But even if all those elements were just fine, Oakland’s next opponent looks tough to beat.
The San Diego Chargers, coming off a 31-0 victory over the New York Jets, have won four consecutive games and at 4-1 are atop the AFC West.
The Chargers’ offense and defense are both clicking.
Defensively, San Diego held the Jets to just 91 yards rushing and just 11 first downs.
On offense, quarterback Philip Rivers has been terrific. He was 20-of-28 Sunday in the win over New York for 288 yards and three touchdowns, and for the season he ranks No. 1 in the NFL with a QB rating of 116.3 and is fourth in passing yards (1,443).
Plus, the Chargers have found a new running threat in Branden Oliver, an undrafted free agent from Buffalo who rushed for 114 yards and caught four passes for 68 more in the victory over the Jets.
The Chargers had been a potent passing team in their first four games of the year, but had an NFL-worst 2.4 yards per rushing going into this past weekend before Oliver had his big day. But Oliver and the offensive line were terrific.
“The offensive line was hungry, and we just had to do what we had to do,” Oliver said.
Now, all Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano has to do this week is get his own 0-4 team up to speed in time to tangle with the Chargers this Sunday afternoon at O.co Coliseum.
The Raiders rank dead last in the NFL in total offense, generating just 270 yards per game, and are giving up 365 yards per game, which ranks 19th.
If they have any hope of beating San Diego, they’ll need to generate a running game to help control the game and keep Rivers off the field, while finding a pass rush – so far it’s been notably absent – to badger Rivers in the pocket.
With just a week of prep time available, it seems a tall task for Sparano – especially if quarterback Derek Carr can’t go.
Carr, who injured his ankle and knee in the loss to Miami in London, said last week he believes he can play this week. He had a bye week to help heal.
If he can’t go, that means Matt Schaub would get the call – not a comforting thought for a team on a 10-game losing streak.