Thursday Night Preview

San Diego, CA - The San Diego Chargers haven't had a losing season in five years. It's been just as long since their last loss to the Oakland Raiders.

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Possibly the most disappointing team of this NFL season wants to make sure neither of those streaks end Thursday night, with the Chargers hosting the Raiders and looking to avoid putting their slim playoff hopes at risk this weekend.

Oddsmakers from online sports book have made the Chargers -10 point spread favorites (View NFL Football odds) for Thursday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on the Chargers -10 (View NFL Football bet percentages).

"They don't call the season off when you're going bad or when the odds are stacked against you that you won't be playing in January," San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. "So we've got to go play a game. If you've got any pride or anything about you, you'll prepare and go play."

A year after reaching the AFC championship game, the Chargers (4-8) likely need to win their final four games to have any shot of making the playoffs, and it's a necessity if they are to avoid their first sub-.500 season since going 4-12 in 2003.

The NFC West champion three of the last four years, San Diego is three games behind division-leading Denver with four to play. That means if the Chargers lose Thursday, they will be eliminated from postseason contention if the Broncos beat Kansas City on Sunday.

"We've got to win them all and they've got to lose three of four," Rivers said. "Can it happen? Sure, but we haven't shown the ability to be able to win four in a row."

Rivers' team enters this matchup on a three-game losing streak, equaling the longest he's seen since joining the Chargers in 2004. San Diego hasn't dropped four straight since an 0-5 start in 2003, and one of those losses was a 34-31 defeat in Oakland.

The Raiders (3-9) have lost all 10 meetings since that game, and only one of the last seven has been decided by fewer than 10 points.

A victory Sunday would give San Diego the longest winning streak in the 48-year history of this series. Oakland took 10 in a row from 1972-77, a stretch in which it won the first of its three Super Bowls.

The Raiders' glory days are long gone. They must win out to avoid becoming the third team in NFL history to suffer at least 10 losses in six consecutive seasons - Tampa Bay (1983-94) and Detroit (2001-06) previously did it.

"Every time we win a game right now is very important for us," interim coach Tom Cable said. "For us to go down (to San Diego) and win would be huge."

The Raiders could not slow down LaDainian Tomlinson in the first meeting as he rushed for a season-high 106 yards and two touchdowns in San Diego's 28-18 win on Sept. 28. Lately, though, the ineffectiveness of the reigning two-time NFL rushing champion has mirrored his team's struggles.

He's been held to 60.8 rushing yards per game and 3.2 per carry over the last four weeks. Tomlinson has 794 rushing yards through 12 games after having at least 1,400 in each of the previous six seasons, during which San Diego's run offense finished among the league's top 10 every year. The Chargers are 26th this season with 93.4 yards per game.

Tomlinson had 24 yards on 14 carries in a 22-16 home loss to Atlanta on Sunday as the Chargers gained a season-low 201 yards.

"A lot of people around the league probably think we are going to pack it in and give up. But we won't," Tomlinson said after posting the second-lowest rushing total of his career.

While problems running the ball have plagued a Chargers offense that's proficient through the air - Rivers leads the AFC with a 100.5 passer rating - the Raiders have been done in by the NFL's worst passing attack (139.5 yards per game).

The slow development of second-year quarterback JaMarcus Russell is a big reason why Oakland ranks 29th in total offense (263.3 ypg) and 30th in scoring (14.3 ppg). The only offense to score fewer touchdowns than the Raiders' 13 is that of St. Louis (12).

Oakland's offense had gone 15 consecutive quarters without a TD before a surprising 31-10 win in Denver on Nov. 23. That victory kept the Raiders mathematically in the playoff chase, but they fell right out of it Sunday with a 20-13 home loss to Kansas City as Russell finished 10-of-28 for 132 yards.

"Even though we were 3-8, we were still thinking that there was a chance that we could get to the playoffs," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "It hurts us because now it's pretty much out of the way. So, we just got to keep playing and, hopefully, get some more wins before the season's over."

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
SAN DIEGO is 22-11 against the spread versus OAKLAND since 1992
SAN DIEGO is 19-14 straight up against OAKLAND since 1992
19 of 32 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
SAN DIEGO is 4-1 against the spread versus OAKLAND over the last 3 seasons 
SAN DIEGO is 5-0 straight up against OAKLAND over the last 3 seasons 
3 of 4 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at SAN DIEGO since 1992
SAN DIEGO is 8-8 against the spread versus OAKLAND since 1992
SAN DIEGO is 8-8 straight up against OAKLAND since 1992
12 of 16 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at SAN DIEGO over the last 3 seasons.
SAN DIEGO is 1-1 against the spread versus OAKLAND over the last 3 seasons 
SAN DIEGO is 2-0 straight up against OAKLAND over the last 3 seasons 
2 of 2 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[OL] Paul McQuistan IR - Knee - 09/10/08
[TE] Ben Troupe IR - Foot - 10/22/08
[RB] Oren O'Neal IR - Knee - 08/24/08
[C] Jake Grove missed last game, "?" - Calf - 11/16/08
[T] Seth Wand IR - Knee - 09/26/08
[WR] Javon Walker is expected to miss the rest of the season. - Ankle - 11/13/08
[LB] Ricky Brown missed last game, "?" - Groin - 11/16/08
[DE] Derrick Burgess missed last game, "?" - Tricep - 11/16/08
[LB] Robert Thomas IR - Hamstring - 11/05/08
[FB] Justin Griffith IR - Knee - 10/27/08
[SS] Tyvon Branch IR - Shoulder - 11/07/08
[LB] Shawne Merriman IR - Knee - 09/10/08
[DE] Luis Castillo injured last game, "?" - Groin - 11/18/08

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Posted: 12/2/08 5:54 PM ET

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