The longest of shots


The Raiders don’t do upsets, which is only one of the reasons no sane person gives them a chance of winning Sunday against what might be the best team in the NFL.

As a player, Art Shell never had to worry about upsetting another team. He had to worry about being on the team that got upset.

But make no mistake, if the Raiders were to rise up and beat the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium, it would be the biggest surprise win in the history of the franchise.

There’s a depressing reason behind it, of course. The Raiders are at the low point in their history, having won 15 of their last 58 games dating back to the start of the 2003 season.

Oakland is 2-20 against the AFC West during that span and has saved some its most embarrassing moments for San Diego. While Chiefs games tend to go down to the wire and the Raiders seem to have the odd competitive game against Denver, the Chargers have rarely had to break a sweat.

San Diego, 8-2, has the league’s most explosive team on offense, averaging nearly three times as many points per game as the Raiders.  LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers’ best player, has 11 more touchdowns in his last six games than the Raiders’ offense has scored all season. 

San Diego comes in as the first team to win back-to-back weeks in games in which it trailed by 17 points.

The Raiders are 2-8, and the only time they’ve had fewer wins 10 games into the season is 1962, when they started out 0-13 before winning the season finale.

Only Oakland’s fairly stingy defense in terms of points allowed has kept them within 13 points according to oddsmakers, who are uncannily accurate on this sort of thing.

The Raiders haven’t given up more than 17 points since a 34-20 loss in San Francisco (including a 49ers defensive touchdown). Coach Art Shell conceded Friday that rolling another 17 against the Chargers will be difficult.

“If we could do that, then on the other side we have ot make sure we do our share,” Shell said.

The “other side” has been the tricky part, with the Raiders well on their way to the most anemic showing in franchise history. Their high-water mark is 22 points against the 2-8 Cardinals. In 2002, the year they won the AFC championship, they had 22 or more 11 times.

It’s the sad truth that often times a team must be very bad to pull off a major upset, and the Raiders 2006 qualify.

Even in past years when the team was poor, it would be difficult to come up with a game that would rival beating the Chargers Sunday.

Two recent examples, both against Denver, fall short.

In 1997, the Raiders were 2-4, and hadn’t yet disintigrated into the mess that cost Joe Bugel his job after one year, when Denver came to town with John Elway at quarterback and a 6-0 record.

Napoleon Kaufman set a team record with 227 yards rushing on 28 carries including an 83-yard touchdown run on third-and-1. Denver would eventually go on to win the Super Bowl, the Raiders would finish 4-12.

In 2004, the Raiders traveled to Denver for a Sunday night game against the 7-3 Broncos. Oakland prevailed 25-24 with Kerry Collins throwing for 339 yards and four touchdowns in the snow, three to Jerry Porter and one to Ronald Curry. Langston Walker blocked Jason Elam’s potential game-winning field goal at the gun to secure the win.

In the end, it didn’t count for much. The Raiders finished 5-11 and Denver 10-6.

But it allowed both the team and their fans to feel good for a week, and spend the post game period and Monday recounting their successes for a change.

There’s no reason to believe the Raiders have it in them to take out the Chargers, other than the fact that it’s the NFL and sometimes things happen. And that the Chargers, regardless of what they say, could look at their two-game cushion in the AFC West, and well, sometimes things happen.

Friday’s news and notes:

— LG Barry Sims (abdominal strain), WR Jerry Porter (hip flexor), LB Isaiah Ekejiuba (foot) and LT Robert Gallery (dislocated elbow) did not practice and will not play against San Diego.

Corey Hulsey will start his fourth consecutive game for Sims. Chad Slaughter will start at left tackle. Porter, 10 games into a complete waste of a season, barely played anyway. Ekejiuba, a special teams player, has been inactive for the past three games.

— The Raiders won’t look at it this way, but it sure looked like the Chiefs that beat Denver 19-10 on Thanksgiving were a lot better than the ones who beat the Raiders a few days earlier.

Kansas City held out tight end Tony Gonzalez and guard Brian Waters against the Raiders to make sure they were they were ready for Denver, a sure sign that the Chiefs were merely paying lip service to the so-called “rivalry” game and were looking ahead to the Broncos.

Which only makes it worse that Oakland let a possible win get away.

— Profootballtalk.com’s latest Raiders rumor is that Al Davis is trying to sell a 30 percent stake in the team “with a path to take control of the organization upon his demise.”

Coming a few days after an earlier report in which suggested players considered Shell “a joke” and that there was “unprecedented negativity” coming from the locker room, you wonder how many people will come forward to write checks for 30 percent of the NFL’s closest thing to a disaster area, especially if Davis is dictating who is in control.










Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer