By Shawn Lealos
The final Thursday Night Football game of the 2015 NFL season sees two division rivals, neither of which will make the playoffs this year but also two rivals who are in very different places than most people expected. The San Diego Chargers are finishing one of the most disappointing seasons in a long time while the Oakland Raiders are showing more promise than anyone expected from them this season. Here is a look at the two teams heading into this week’s Thursday Night Football game.
The Downfall of the San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers have remained consistently an above average team over the years, but they hoped drafting a top running back this offseason would help put them over the edge. However, they went over the edge and dropped to the basement. Only two teams have a worse record than the Chargers in the AFC. Philip Rivers is still the leader on this team, but his weapons have been disappointing. In his rookie season, Melvin Gordon only ran for 641 yards and never reached the end zone. The best receiver was Keenan Allen, with only 67 receptions for 725 yards and four touchdowns.
The Rise of the Oakland Raiders
When the Oakland Raiders drafted Derek Carr last season, few thought he was good enough to be the franchise quarterback. Two seasons later, Carr has Oakland at 6-8, out of the playoffs and only one win away from matching the last two seasons final records combined. With Jack Del Rio taking control of the franchise, he has them moving in the right direction. Also, rookie Amari Cooper and pass rushing specialist Khalil Mack have the Raiders on the road to a bright future.
Derek Carr to Amari Cooper
Receiver Amari Cooper became the first Oakland receiver since Randy Moss to eclipse 1,000 yards in their rookie season. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft from Alabama and was one of the few first round Raiders’ draft picks to actually pay off. Cooper has four 100-yard rushing games and touchdowns in five games, with two against the Green Bay Packers last week.
Melvin Gordon Ends His Season Early
Rookie Melvin Gordon ended his season early when the Chargers placed him on the injured reserve with cartilage damage in his knee. According to Coach Mike McCoy, Gordon wouldn’t be able to return in two weeks so they opened up an extra spot as they finish off their season. It was a discouraging season for the rookie. He never reached 100 yards in a game this season and never reached the end zone on the ground or through the air. He also lost four fumbles on the year. The Chargers have to hope he improves.
What to Watch on Thursday Night Football
This game will be an interesting one to watch despite their records. Philip Rivers is the key to the Chargers winning games, but he will have to get past the Raiders defense and NFL sack leader Khalil Mack. The second year player leads the league with 15 sacks, but he is one of the only positive things about the Raiders pass defense, which ranks 29th in the NFL. However, the Chargers are little better on defense, ranking 19th overall. The biggest difference here is the turnover ratio, which sees the Chargers near the bottom with a negative eight.