Next Three Games are Critical for Las Vegas Raiders Plans

The Las Vegas Raiders rebuilding plans come into full view as they face their next three opponents, all from the AFC West.
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The Las Vegas Raiders won’t venture outside the AFC West for the next three weekends, starting with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at brand-new SoFi Stadium at Hollywood Park in Inglewood.

After that, the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs will come to meet the Raiders at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Coach Jon Gruden is taking the one-game-at-a-time approach.

“I don’t look past the Chargers at all,” said Gruden, whose Raiders upset the reigning Super Bowl champion Chiefs, 40-32, last month at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City in the only AFC West game Las Vegas has played so far this season. “They had the Buccaneers down, 24-7. They had the Saints, down 20-3. They had the Chiefs beat. They had them third-and-20 and lost the game.

“We’re not looking past the Chargers. We have a lot of guys hurt. We’re just trying to figure out how to get ready to put our best foot forward again on Sunday. You’re right, it’s a great opportunity, but if we look any further ahead than tomorrow, we’re not very smart.”

The Raiders were charter members of the American Football League in 1960 along with the Broncos, then-San Diego Chargers, and Dallas Texans, who later moved to Kansas City and became the Chiefs.

The Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders built a 65-54-2 lead in the series before moving to Las Vegas this season, and quarterback Derek Carr has a 6-6 record against the Chargers in his six previous seasons with the Raiders.

The Chargers went 2-0 in 2014, 2017, and 2018, while the Raiders did the same in 2015, 2016, and last season, when they won, 24-17 and 26-24.

“Big stretch for us, you know that,” said Carr, who has passed for 2,911 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions in those 12 games against the Chargers, in addition to running for a score. “Any time it’s in the division, those games mean more than just one game, right? Very, very excited for the opportunity that we have in front of us. Again, we have to take it one at a time. Chargers, they’re 2-5 and everyone talks about that, but they’re beating some of these really good football teams by 10, 13, 20 points at some points. They end up just losing them, however, at the end of the game. You got to watch the film to see.

“Every game, especially in the division, I’ve been a part of this, I’ve been an 0-10 team when we beat the Chiefs, it doesn’t matter, when you’re in the division, at any moment someone can beat somebody. So, you have to make sure you have a great week and bring it on game day, because if you don’t, especially in the division, you know each other too well. You can’t win games if you don’t bring it during the week.”

The Chargers were the team to beat in the AFL’s Western Division in the early years, and the Raiders couldn’t do it in their first six tries over the first three seasons of the new league.

Then Oakland hired assistant coach Al Davis away from the Chargers to be their coach and general manager in 1963 and flipped the switch, even though San Diego won the AFL Championship that season and many people thought the Chargers could have beaten the NFL champion Chicago Bears.

However, those Chargers couldn’t beat the Raiders.

Oakland pulled out a 34-33 victory midway through the 1963 season on their way to a 10-4 record after going 2-12 and 1-13 the two previous years, but the second game of the season on Dec. 8 is one that has gone down in Raiders lore for longtime fans.

The Chargers held a 27-10 lead over the Raiders after three quarters and Frank Youell Field in Oakland, which had been full at the start, began to empty out. However, quarterback Cotton Davidson threw two touchdown passes to Art Powell and ran for another score as the Silver and Black, in their first season wearing those colors, scored 31 points to pull out a dramatic 41-27 victory.

Many fans who were listening to the game on the radio as they drove away in their cars, turned around and came back and Frank Youell Field was nearly full again at the finish.

Another memorable Raiders victory over the Chargers came in the 1981 AFC Championship Game at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, when quarterback Jim Plunkett threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score in leading Oakland to a 28-7 lead in the second quarter.

However, the great Dan Fouts led the heavily-favored Chargers, AFC West champions that season, on a desperate rally, but the Raiders held on for a 34-27 victory.

Two weeks later, Plunkett threw three touchdown passes and the Raiders downed the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-10, at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans to become the first wild card team to win the Super Bowl.

These Raiders aren’t thinking Super Bow just yet, but in these next three games, they can make a good start on a run to the NFL playoffs.

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