SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Danny Woodhead #39 of the San Diego Chargers catches a touchdown pass against the Dallas Cowboys on September 29, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Usually this story is about three players to keep an eye on in the upcoming Chargers game. This week, with the 8:35 p.m. start time in Oakland, it's more like three players to watch if you can keep your eyes open.
Oh, and as a reminder, we try to come up with guys who aren't completely obvious, which is why it'll be a rare day, indeed, to find someone like Philip Rivers on the list.
OK, so, it's a rare day. The Chargers quarterback is playing well enough to start to turn heads on a national scale again. Only Peyton Manning has more passing yards and touchdowns than Rivers. However, if any opposing coach will have an idea of how to slow down San Diego's revitalized passing attack, it's Raiders head coach Dennis Allen. He was the Broncos defensive coordinator in 2011 when Mike McCoy was Denver's offensive coordinator. The two are good friends. They even took their families on a Caribbean vacation together. Allen knows how McCoy thinks, and how to stop it. Rivers will see some things he probably hasn't seen yet. If he keeps (to steal one of the Chargers' favorite phrases) playing at a super-high level in this game, odds are there will be no dropoff for the entire season.
The other quarterback in the game is quite the enigma. Terrelle Pryor is one of the most dynamic athletes in the NFL, at any position. He's averaging 66 yards rushing a game (10 more than San Diego running back Ryan Mathews, in case you were wondering), and has shown a substantially better grasp of the passing game in 2013. The Chargers have already had trouble dealing with mobile quarterbacks this year (see Vick, Michael and Locker, Jake), largely because of their pass rush (or lack thereof). The Bolts have nine sacks this season, but they've come from eight different players. Reyes has one of them, and has been close to handful of others. The best way to keep Pryor from getting loose is getting him on the ground. Reyes came on strong at the end of his rookie season, with 5.5 sacks in the final seven games. The Chargers need someone to drop the QB, and Reyes has the ability to do it.
The Raiders like to bring pressure from a lot of different places, and they're pretty good at doing it. Woodhead has been invaluable to the Chargers in the passing game, and not just because of his 22 catches, which is second on the team. For a guy his size, Woodhead is a tremendous pass blocker. He's saved Rivers on several pressures already, picking up blitzing defenders and keeping Philip on his feet. Woodhead will be asked to keep doing that on Sunday in Oakland, where he'll very likely play more snaps than Ryan Mathews once again.