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  Oakland Raiders - Team Report
December 30, 2011
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The old-style philosophy of the Raiders under Al Davis used to be, "We don't take what the defense gives us, we take what we want."

The 2011 Raiders, who through 15 games have established the personality of doing things the hard way, will take whatever they can get.

It hasn't been smooth, but with one game remaining in the season, the Raiders remain in the playoff chase with an 8-7 record as they host the San Diego Chargers (7-8) on Sunday at O.co Coliseum.

For the Raiders to make the postseason for the first time since they last won the AFC West and conference championship in 2002, the easy way in is to beat San Diego and then have visiting Kansas City knock off Denver -- which would give the division title to Oakland because of a better division record (4-2 to 3-3).

If Denver wins, the Raiders can still get in as a wild card team provided Baltimore beats Cincinnati, coupled with either a Jets win or a Titans loss.

Both scenarios, however, have one constant -- the Raiders must win, or they're not going anywhere with their second consecutive 8-8 season.

Based on the previous 15 games, the least likely possibility for the Raiders would be to go out and dominate San Diego, putting an exclamation point on an inconsistent season.

That simply hasn't been how the Raiders have operated.

Of their nine wins, only one -- a 34-24 win over the Jets in Week 3 -- was by a 10-point margin. All other games remained in doubt into the fourth quarter.

If Oakland fails to make the playoffs, Hue Jackson will look hard at defensive collapses in Week 2 against Buffalo (the Bills scored five touchdowns in five second-half possessions) and Detroit in Week 15 (two late scoring drives with a 27-14 lead)

The Raiders have also had a disturbing penchant for the blowout loss, falling 28-0 to Kansas City and in back-to-back non-competitive road games against Miami (34-14) and Green Bay (46-16), falling behind 34-0 in each game.

The Raiders have had their share of issues with which to deal on and off the field.

Their iconic owner died on Oct. 8. They lost their starting quarterback when Jason Campbell broke his right collarbone on Oct. 16, and have been without running back Darren McFadden for the past eight games because of a severe mid-foot sprain.

Jackson did what he could to keep the Raiders afloat, orchestrating a blockbuster trade for quarterback Carson Palmer form Cincinnati and also getting starting weakside linebacker Aaron Curry from Seattle.

"I'm a man of faith, and I believe in things," Jackson said. "I have an unquestionable belief in what we're trying to do. It doesn't look pretty all the time. It's not sexy, like everybody wanted it to be. But it's the way we are, and the way we are right now.

"Every year takes on a different look, and this year has been a different type of look. The end result is winning -- that's what we're truly after."

Strong safety Tyvon Branch, the Raiders' leading tackler for the second straight year, described the Raiders thusly:

"We're relentless, man. Things don't always go our way, but we always fight, we fight to the end. That's one thing I can say about us."

Cornerback Lito Sheppard has seen opportunities come and go and hopes the difficulty of the journey will manifest itself in a greater resolve for the last regular-season game of the season.

"We've had a lot of opportunities to kind of seal this thing, but it just seems to not want to come easy," Sheppard said. "We've been having to fight it out, every step, every inch. Every little bit of success that's given to us, we've had to earn it and work hard for it. That's the approach we've taken and that's what we're faced with."

Only two players, Pro Bowl specialists Sebastian Janikowski and Shane Lechler, have been in this position while wearing a Raiders uniform. Both were rookies in 2000, the beginning of a three-year run of AFC West titles, two berths in the conference championship game and one trip to the Super Bowl.

"It feels good to be this close," free safety Michael Huff said. "It's been a while since it's been like this around here. It's a good feeling. We know we have to go out there and handle our business this week and everything will take care of itself."

Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2004, endured six consecutive seasons of 11 or more defeats before going .500 last year and having a chance at the postseason this year.

The last time he was in a game with this much meaning was at Hinds Community College in Mississippi.

"Biggest game I ever played in, since junior college in 1999," Kelly said. "That's a long time to play in a big game."

SERIES HISTORY: 104th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series, 57-44-2. They have won the past three, including a 24-17 win Nov. 10 as Michael Bush rushed for 157 yards on 30 carries and caught three passes for 85 yards. San Diego won 13 consecutive games before the Raiders' present streak began.



PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES



--When pressed, the Raiders know what it will take to get them into the postseason aside from a win over San Diego, but aren't much interested in analyzing it because it's moot if they don't beat the Chargers.

"It's definitely good that we're still in it, but I think it will be even worse if we go in and fall flat on our face Sunday," CB Stanford Routt said. "I know obviously we need help from Kansas City to beat Denver and the other scenarios for the wild card, but if we don't go out there and handle our business Sunday, then it doesn't matter who wins the other games."

LT Jared Veldheer admits to looking at the various matchups during the week that will help determine the Raiders' fate, but will tune it all out come Sunday.

"I mean, when you want it as bad as we do, you're not staying out of tune and out of sync with what's going on," Veldheer said. "You've got to be aware of the situation, but first thing's first, and we have to win Sunday."

--Two things coach Hue Jackson promised to get fixed as far back as training camp have instead gone the other way.

With 155 penalties for 1,294 yards, Oakland is four penalties and 11 yards from breaking the all-time record in both categories set by the Kansas City Chiefs (158 for 1,304 yards).

The penalty yardage figure is already a franchise record, beating last year's mark of 1,274.

Jackson is finally conceding the problem is not fixed -- far from it.

"It's disappointing. I don't have the answer, obviously," Jackson said. "I talk to the team about it all the time. I don't just talk. I yell. I scream. I threaten. I've done everything. I get a bunch of letters from people telling me other things I should try, too."

Carson Palmer admits he is as baffled by the penalty issue as anyone else.

"I wish I knew what it was. It's not a bunch of false starts, or holding penalties. It's just kind of all over the place," "As those flags get going I always have guys come up to me on the sideline saying, 'This is what happens when you play for the Raiders.'"

--The experience was old hat for Shane Lechler and Richard Seymour, but it was brand new to PK Sebastian Janikowski, selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 12th season.

"It took me awhile, but it feels great and it's a great honor and I'm happy to be there," Janikowski said.

Janikowski is 27-for-31 on field-goal attempts this season. Of his four misses, two were blocks from 49 and 65 yards, and the misses were from 56 and 59 yards.

He tied an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in Week 1, set a team record with six field goals against the Chicago Bears and the Raiders were 4-0 in games in which Janikowski had three or more field goals.

Lechler and Janikowski both arrived in Oakland in 2000, Janikowski with the 17th pick in the first round, and Lechler as a fifth-round selection.

"I was very excited for him," Lechler said. "Well overdue. He has had an outstanding season and made a lot of big kicks for us."

--Coach Hue Jackson isn't interested in hearing how the Chargers (7-8) are a candidate to mail one in with the season already gone and coach Norv Turner rumored to be out at the end of the season.

San Diego is just two weeks removed from a convincing win over Baltimore, currently the AFC North leader and one of the top teams in the NFL.

"I see a team that's played very well and that's very capable," Jackson said. "I mean, everybody writes them off for dead. I heard that about our team three weeks ago. I don't pay attention to any of that.

"There's nothing they would like better than to knock the Raiders out of the playoffs."

BY THE NUMBERS: 400 -- The Raiders have allowed 395 points and if they give up five more and make the playoffs, they'd be the fourth team since the schedule went to 17 weeks to give up 400 points and make the playoffs. The others were Seattle (2010), Arizona (2008) and St. Louis (2000). The Seahawks were 7-9 and the Cardinals and Rams had Kurt Warner as their quarterback.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I went to the AFC championship game my rookie year, then to the snow game in New England, then to the Super Bowl, but not much after that. To see it come full circle would be good." -- Raiders P Shane Lechler on the possibility of getting back to the postseason for the first time since the 2002 season.



STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

The potential return of Jacoby Ford could alter the Raiders' rotation in terms of the wide receivers, but coach Hue Jackson didn't sound inclined to immediately re-insert the second-year player into his role as kickoff return specialist after being out since Nov. 10 with a foot sprain.

More likely, Bryan McCann, who had a 91-yard return on the opening kickoff to set up a field goal against Kansas City, will continue in that role, with Denarius Moore returning punts.

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Jacoby Ford was limited in practice and could see action against San Diego if he responds well in subsequent practices.

--FS Michael Huff was limited in practice after missing two games with a hamstring strain and said he plans to start against San Diego.

--RB Taiwan Jones was limited in practice and could be available to play against San Diego.

--WR Louis Murphy was limited in practice with a groin injury.

--DT John Henderson missed practice with a knee injury and isn't likely to play.

--RB Darren McFadden missed practice with a mid-foot sprain and isn't likely to face San Diego.

INJURY IMPACT

--FS Matt Giordano resumes his role as an extra safety in some packages if FS Michael Huff (hamstring) returns to the lineup.

--RB Michael Bush could be spelled a series or two if RB Taiwan Jones is healthy enough to return to the lineup.

--DT Desmond Bryant will get some inside rotations along with Lamarr Houston alongside Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour in the absence of Henderson.

--QB Kyle Boller will be the backup quarterback as Jason Campbell still hasn't thrown since sustaining a broken collarbone on Oct. 16.

GAME PLAN: When the Chargers were rolling up a 13-game winning streak against the Raiders, it was largely because they were able to establish the run with Raider-killer LaDainian Tomlinson. In the post-LT era, San Diego has lost the last three games to Oakland and ran for 62.3 yards per game in the process, failing to break 100 yards. Oakland can expect Norv Turner to get back to basics and therefore will need to load up against the run, meaning a lot of Tyvon Branch and Mike Mitchell in the box.

Offensively, the dwindling effectiveness of Michael Bush means Carson Palmer -- who threw just 20 times in the previous matchup -- will have to throw more on first down to help carry the offense.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Raiders CB Stanford Routt vs. Chargers WR Vincent Jackson -- With Routt shadowing him for most of the game, Jackson had just one reception for 22 yards and was a non-factor. On San Diego's last-gasp attempt to tie, Jackson failed to turn around while being guarded by Routt and the pass was intercepted by Matt Giordano. Routt's physical style has cost him of late. He has seven penalties -- either defensive holding or pass interference -- in the Raiders' last two games. He is the team co-leader in interceptions with four, tied with Giordano.

Chargers CBs Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer vs. WR Denarius Moore -- Moore torched the Chargers and Jammer, in particular, in the first meeting with five receptions for 123 yards and touchdown receptions of 33 and 26 yards. After missing three games with a foot sprain and then playing against Detroit, Moore returned to form in the win over Kansas City, racing under a perfectly thrown go route for a 61-yard touchdown pass from Carson Palmer. He is averaging 17.2 yards per catch this season and is second to Michael Bush with six touchdowns (five receiving, one rushing). The San Diego secondary has given up 27 touchdown passes in 15 games.

   
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