There are a whole bunch of fantasy takeaways from Thursday night's match-up between the Raiders and Chargers, and we'll get to the full list in just a moment. But we should start with this simple fact: San Diego's defense can't stop a thing right now.
That group hasn't held an opponent below 23 points since Week 4, and it's allowed 857 total net yards over the past two games. The Chargers offered no resistance against the run on Thursday (191 yards against), and they're obviously vulnerable to the vertical passing game — they gave up seven completions to Carson Palmer that went for more than 20 yards. The San Diego corners seem to have no catch-up ability if they're beat at the line, as Denarius Moore discovered on this play.
If you'll allow me to quickly look ahead to Week 11 before Week 10 is in the books, I'll just point out that Matt Forte will likely be our top-ranked running back in his upcoming home match-up with the Chargers. Jay Cutler is going to rank as a top-10 quarterback on my board, and ... well, some Bears receiver (possibly three) is going to deliver starting-quality numbers. Here's the rest-of-season schedule for San Diego, to assist with your fantasy planning: at Chi, vs. Den, at Jac, vs. Buf, vs. Bal, at Det, at Oak. If Matthew Stafford is still upright and uninjured in Week 16 — when most fantasy championships are settled — he'll be my No. 1 ranked QB.
As Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune put it after the Thursday night debacle (on video), "There is a problem on this team, and it's that they stink." No better way to put it, really.
Here are 11 additional things we learned on Thursday night, in celebration of 11-11-11...
1. Important survival tip: When the zombie apocalypse begins, do NOT attempt to hide behind Brandyn Dombrowski. Seek another protector, citizen, because he cannot help you. San Diego's battered and broken O-line is yet another worry for Philip Rivers owners. And so is this guy, sometimes...
2. Vincent Jackson was basically an embarrassment on Thursday. He followed one of the best performances in his career with perhaps the worst. Just watch this disastrous late play, where Jackson either can't locate the pass, or can't be troubled to pursue it. Sure, that would have been a degree-of-difficulty catch, but when you're a 6-foot-5, $11 million receiver, you're expected to win jump-balls. Brutal. Rivers has been at fault on many turnovers this season, but that one wasn't really on him.
3. The other Vincent in the Chargers receiving corps — rookie Vincent Brown — was awfully impressive. He hauled in five passes for 97 yards and a TD, plus he should have had a second touchdown on a play where he roasted Lito Sheppard. (Replay review overturned the score, in an odd-yet-correct ruling). Rivals' pre-draft scouting report on Brown fits perfectly with what the receiver put on tape on Thursday night:
Has long arms, big hands and a sizable catching radius. Can make the one-handed grab (see BYU). Efficient mover with a fluid stride. Good body control, balance and ball skills. Stems off the line and knows how to turn a cornerback's hips — separates with savvy. Adjusts very well to the ball. Runs hard after the catch.
Brown was double-covered on his touchdown grab, but he out-fought the DBs. Just a great performance, enough perhaps to make him relevant even when Malcom Floyd recovers from his latest injury.
4. Ryan Mathews looked just fine, but game-flow did him no favors. San Diego trailed at halftime by two touchdowns. The Chargers ran the ball just 15 times all night, while Rivers attempted 47 passes and absorbed six sacks. Mathews finished with nine touches for 57 total yards, and appeared to be his usual elusive, lively self. He'll now have 10 days to recover before the Week 11 game at Chicago.
5. Here's a post-game tweet from Michael Gehlken that won't make you feel any better if you were already fretting about a possible Rivers injury:
Philip Rivers on 4th Q incompletion that caused him to grab throwing arm in pain: "It didn't feel good, but no big deal." He's fine.
We should note that Rivers has topped 40 pass attempts in each of his last three games, the guys always practices, and, again, Thursday's INT wasn't actually his fault. As Gehlken says, he's fine. (Um...probably. We're 88 percent sure).
6. If we could somehow have a Mike Mayock replicant broadcasting every NFL game each week, that would be just fine. Solid booth last night. Mayock sees more than most, and has a great ability to translate NFL complexities/gibberish to standard English. Approve.
7. OK, so you knew this already: Michael Bush is a load, a back who's fully capable of handling a feature role. There was once a buy-low window on Bush in dynasty leagues — he's available to the highest bidder in 2012 — but that opportunity has passed. Bush finished with 242 scrimmage yards against the Chargers, as his line opened wide lanes all night. Darren McFadden is still in a boot, and there's no reason for the Raiders to risk a setback with his foot injury. Bush will clearly be a strong fantasy play in the week(s) ahead. And his backfield complement wasn't too bad, either...
8. Speedy rookie Taiwan Jones was thisclose to breaking a long run against San Diego, ultimately finishing with 39 yards on seven carries. That dude is a live wire. As we've mentioned before, Jones is a guy with 4.33 speed and an impressive preseason highlight reel. Keep him on the radar, consider him in future weeks as a Hail Mary fantasy option.
9. Raiders fans, that was a strong showing on the road. Late in the game, Oakland players were waving their arms, calling for crowd noise, and they got it. Tip of the hat.
10. Denarius Moore had a breakout performance way back in Week 2 in the Raiders' win at Buffalo (5-146-1), and he had a re-breakout at San Diego (5-123-2). The rookie moves back to the top of the Oakland receiving hierarchy. Jacoby Ford suffered a foot sprain — the must-have injury in Oakland for 2011 — while making a 41-yard catch in the first quarter on Thursday, Darrius Heyward-Bey, your services are no longer required. In standard-size leagues, DHB is a drop (and it's tough for me to care about the number of snaps he played. This is a run-first team not likely to support more than one WR2/3). Moore has made more than one sensational grab this year, and has clearly earned the trust of his quarterback. Remember, the rookie led the Raiders in targets in Week 9.
11. Over his last two games, Carson Palmer has thrown for 631 yards on just 55 attempts. That's some crazy efficiency right there. The vertical passing attack is in good hands, as Palmer's arm seems plenty strong. His one interception on Thursday occurred on a play where he was hit while throwing, thanks to a missed block by Bush — and if he hadn't been hit, this play probably would have resulted in another score. Palmer has entered the circle of (moderate) trust, a viable starter in our game.
I'd love nothing more than to stick around and chat about injuries and practice reports, but the bus leaves for Iowa City shortly. Thank a veteran today (or tomorrow, or any other day).
Photos via US Presswire