When the Raiders meet the Chargers Sunday in San Diego, it’s the final act of the 2012 season.
In many ways, too, it’s the first act of 2013.
The game is a matchup of two also-ran teams who kicked off their seasons against one another nearly four months ago in Oakland, then stumbled to 4-11 (Oakland) and 6-9 (San Diego) records. The two teams combined for zero players selected to this year’s Pro Bowl. There’s nothing riding on the game more than draft placement, some pride and a chance for young players (and coaches) to make their points about sticking around for next season.
It’s already a foregone conclusion that this will be the final game for Chargers head coach Norv Turner. The status of Oakland head coach Dennis Allen and his assistants is still to be determined.
As for the Raiders, there are some storylines to keep in mind for this season finale.
The biggest is whether second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor gets a chance to start or play a significant amount against the Chargers. With nothing to lose – and with Pryor and Matt Leinart sharing snaps in practice this week – the Raiders may decide to see what Pryor can do.
In addition, it’s one last chance for the Raiders to show they can run the ball with a much-criticized zone blocking scheme. If offensive coordinator Greg Knapp wants to keep his job, it might be nice for the Raiders to move the ball against the Chargers. But running back Darren McFadden has struggled this season in the new scheme, and is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry, the NFL’s third-worst mark among qualified backs.
Rookie Tony Bergstrom is expected to make his first NFL start, at right guard, in place of the injured Mike Brisiel. This could be an audition for Bergstrom to join the starting lineup next fall. Bergstrom has played both guard and tackle this season as a backup, but Knapp says he’s been impressive.
“I feel like he’s ready to play now,” Knapp told the Bay Area News Group. “He’s going to go through some growing pains, but he’s certainly earned the right to be on the field.”
The Raiders’ very weak defense also will likely be much different for this game than it will be on the first weekend of 2013.
Injured veteran defensive tackle Richard Seymour, already placed on injured reserve, likely won’t return, and there are questions across the Oakland defensive line, linebacking group and secondary.
One player certainly expected to play a key role in 2013 is rookie linebacker Miles Burris, who’s returning to the same stadium where he played for San Diego State.
Burris has started every game this season and has been one of the few bright spots on defense.
“He’s the type of player that we’re looking for as far as a guy, he loves football, he’s wiling to work and he’s got a team attitude,” Allen told Steve Corkran of the Bay Area News Group. “Those are the characteristics of the guys that we’re really looking for, and he fits that to a tee.”
After Sunday’s game, the Raiders will begin their offseason quest for more players like Burris.