Last season, when the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders met at the Coliseum, I had one of those times that was as good as the commercial that lists the price of things and then a special event that was priceless. For me, it was being at a Raiders night game in Oakland with my son and his son, the three generations of Ranahans one last time enjoying a special time that saw the Raiders come-from-behind and beat the Chargers.
Tonight, those same two teams meet not in Oakland, but the Raiders new home in Sin City. The Raiders and Chargers have a long history that dates back to the first year of the American Football League, 1960. For the first three years of the league Lamar Hunt founded, the Chargers were one of the best teams in the league, the Raiders the worst.
Then, in 1963, the Chargers offensive coordinator, a brash young kid that Sid Gilman professed to have the most dynamic offensive mind in the game, left the Chargers for a chance to become head coach, part owner and general manager of the Silver and Black.
The young offensive genius was Al Davis, and his arrival in Oakland transformed the struggling franchise to a powerhouse. In a recent conversation with Raiders all-time great center, Jim Otto, he told me that when the Raiders beat the Chargers by one point in San Diego that first season Davis was with the Raiders, he and Davis celebrated on the field in tears … “The only time I ever recall Al showing that kind of emotion with tears in his eyes,” Otto said while fondly remembering the event.
Well, a lot of the luster that dotted the long history of these two teams battling each other has been lost in franchise transfers and losing records. The Chargers, who began in Los Angeles, and soon moved to San Diego where they established themselves for more than 50 years, and now back to LA, are enthused about their rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert. But, while they like him, it is noteworthy that his record as a starter on a team that was a playoff contender for years while Philip Rivers was behind center, has only three wins in his dozen starts.
As for the Raiders, they beat the New Orleans Saints early in the season, tagged the Kansas City Chiefs with their only loss of the season at Arrowhead Stadium, and downed the Cleveland Browns seven weeks ago to elevate their chances of cracking the postseason. They followed that victory in Cleveland with division wins over both the Chargers, while holding Los Angeles out of the endzone on a late drive to preserve a five point win at SoFi Stadium, and dominating the Denver Broncos in Las Vegas.
But, since that trio of consecutive wins, the only Raiders victory was a miracle win over the New York Jets on a desperation last pass of the game to down the still winless team from New York. To save their flickering playoff hopes, the Raiders needed a win last Sunday at home against the Indianapolis Colts … and the visitors, now directed on the field by the former Chargers quarterback, Rivers, drilled Las Vegas, 44-27.
So, what do we have to work with tonight?
A Chargers team that has lost three games to the Raiders over the past two seasons looking to see if their young quarterback can get a win, and a Las Vegas team that has reduced their possibilities of making the postseason on a near par with Donald Trump’s chances of overturning the election results.
The Raiders get a motivational edge based on playing a second straight game at home off a loss, while the Chargers get an advantage looking to bounce off both a pair of losses to Oakland last year and their narrow defeat against the Raiders earlier this season.
In other words, the advantage in this game is like a teeter-totter, where either side can be up at any given time.
I don’t bet on teeter-totters or games with this many conflicting factors.