SD-OAK Matchup Report
Oakland, CA - The Oakland Raiders' roller coaster of controversy and absurdity began with the abrupt firing of their coach last year.
It hasn't shown any signs of stopping as they open the season Monday night against the visiting San Diego Chargers.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Chargers –9.5 point spread favorites (View NFL odds) for Sunday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 90% of bets for this game have been placed on the Chargers –9.5 (View NFL bet percentages).
The latest is the continued absence of newly acquired defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who was acquired from New England on Sunday in exchange for a first-round draft pick in 2011. The five-time Pro Bowler is attempting to work out a new contract with the Raiders but could return to the Patriots if a deal isn't reached.
"I really have nothing to report on that," coach Tom Cable said. "Nothing has changed at this point."
Cable is embroiled in his own ongoing saga after allegedly assaulting defensive assistant Randy Hanson and fracturing his jaw during training camp. The case is being investigated by the Napa, Calif., police department and the NFL.
Aside from any fallout from the investigation, Cable might be another in a line of revolving coaches if he can't break Oakland's string of losing years.
Since falling to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl in January 2003, the Raiders have employed five coaches in six seasons. They have posted an NFL-worst 24-72 record in that time, losing at least 11 games in a record six consecutive years.
After taking over for Lane Kiffin, Cable lost eight of 12 games during last season's 5-11 finish.
Temperamental owner Al Davis fired Kiffin by telephone Sept. 30 and called his former coach "a flat-out liar" who was "bringing disgrace to the organization" at a press conference later that day. Davis had reportedly drafted a letter of resignation in January 2008 that Kiffin refused to sign.
Amid the continuing turmoil, the Raiders will try to break their 11-game skid to the Chargers.
San Diego, however, is dealing with its own controversy.
Linebacker Shawne Merriman was arrested early Sunday on suspicion of choking and restraining his girlfriend, reality TV star Tila Tequila, as she tried to leave his Southern California home. The San Diego County district attorney's office began reviewing the case Wednesday to decide if the three-time Pro Bowler will be charged.
The outcome could be another blow to a team that's considered a perennial underachiever despite three straight AFC West titles. The Chargers have the fourth-most wins since 2004 with 54, but the three teams with more - Indianapolis, New England and Pittsburgh - have all won the Super Bowl in that time.
San Diego needed to win its final four games last season, beginning with a 34-7 home victory over Oakland, to finish 8-8 and edge out Denver in the division. The Chargers recorded an overtime victory over Indianapolis to open the playoffs but were stopped by eventual champion Pittsburgh in the divisional round.
General manager A.J. Smith said his club had "lost its elite status," and star running back LaDainian Tomlinson said he knows time is running out to make a title drive.
"You can't say, 'We will get it next year.' The window of opportunity is closing, and it's not as wide as it used to be and we certainly know this," Tomlinson said.
The Chargers, however, have one of the league's rising stars in quarterback Philip Rivers. Last season, he threw for a career-best 4,009 yards, had a league-leading 105.5 passer rating and broke Dan Fouts' team record for touchdown passes with 34. San Diego rewarded Rivers with a six-year contract extension worth $93 million.
Tomlinson, who turned 30 in June, said he's recovered from a nagging toe injury that hampered him last year. He also sat out the playoff loss to the Steelers with an ailing groin - the first time in his career he missed a game due to injury.
Tomlinson rushed for a career-low 1,110 yards, which still ranked fourth in the AFC. His 12 touchdowns were the fewest since he had 10 in his rookie season.
Tomlinson enters the season with 11,760 rushing yards (14th all-time) and his 141 total touchdowns are tied with Buffalo's Terrell Owens for fourth on that list. The Chargers also signed backup Darren Sproles to a $6.62 million contract as the team's franchise player.
San Diego, however, is looking to improve a defense that ranked 25th last season - two spots ahead of Oakland.
The Raiders are hoping their investment in quarterback and former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell will finally start paying off after a promising end to last season. Russell, who signed a six-year deal with $31.5 million guaranteed in 2007, had an 88.5 passer rating over his final seven starts, winning three of them while throwing seven touchdowns against four interceptions.
Oakland is looking for a similar breakout year from another former top draft pick, running back Darren McFadden. As a rookie in 2008, he rushed for 499 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games but was plagued with toe and ankle problems.
The Raiders drafted wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey from Maryland with the seventh pick this year, ahead of the more accomplished Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin.
Posted: 9/10/09 2:07AM ET