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Seven things to watch for in Raiders-Chargers tilt

I'm a fan of anything that breaks up routine. This Sunday's football schedule is anything but routine.

The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargerswill kick off Sunday night with a "Thursday Night Football Special Edition" broadcast on NFL Network at 11:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. PT. The game will wrap up roughly 14 hours of live, continuous NFL football Sunday, and it will tell us a lot about the Chargers' season.

At 2-2, the Chargers could evolve into one of the surprise teams in the AFC. They have boasted one of the best offenses in football, and Philip Rivers is playing out of his mind. Winning in Oakland won't be easy, but this is the type of game that playoff teams find a way to win.

Here's what we'll be watching for late Sunday night:

  1. Oakland has a vulnerable offensive line, but San Diego might not have the talent to take advantage of it. Dwight Freeney was the team's best pass rusher and best defensive player overall early this season. He's now out for the year. Young defensive linemen Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes have taken a step back this year. We expected the Chargers' defense to be the strength of the team because of continuity, but they have struggled.
  1. Terrelle Pryor returns to the Raiders' starting lineup this week, much to coach Dennis Allen's delight. Pryor has been one of this season's pleasant surprises. He's made more tough throws from the pocket than he's given credit for, and his improvisational skills are unlike any quarterback in the league.

The offense could barely operate with Matt Flynn at the helm last week instead of Pryor. They need a quarterback who can make plays on his own because Pryor is working with a deficit of weapons.

  1. Darren McFadden (hamstring) is doubtful for Sunday, so Rashad Jennings likely will get the start at running back. Jennings is a straight-ahead runner who can get what's blocked. In Oakland, that's usually not very much.
  1. Rivers is the most accurate quarterback this side of Peyton Manning. He's played the last three weeks about as close to flawless as you can. The offensive line in San Diego is now not all bad, and Rivers is getting the ball out of his hands quickly. Rivers is great at picking out an opponent's weakness and relentlessly attacking it. And the Raiders' pass defense has plenty of weak spots.
  1. Raiders rookie cornerback DJ Hayden has not looked like a first-round pick thus far. Free-agent pickup Tracy Porter also has struggled and safety Brandian Ross has been picked on. It's not a good sign that Charles Woodson is the best player in the team's secondary.
  1. Likely future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates looks five years younger this season. He's healthy and in better shape than he has been for a long time.
  1. So the Raiders talk here isn't all negative, let's give defensive end Lamarr Houston some love. He's one of the most complete players at his position in the league.

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