SAN DIEGO (AP) — It could be a remarkable scene Sunday when the Oakland Raiders, closing in on their first playoff berth since their Super Bowl season of 2002, face a fading Chargers franchise that could be nearing the end of its 56-season run in San Diego.
The Raiders (10-3), who have their own relocation saga brewing back home in Oakland, simply need to beat the Chargers (5-8) for the fourth straight time to clinch a playoff berth.
They’ll be backed by thousands of their loyal fans, who could turn 70,000-seat Qualcomm Stadium into a sea of Silver and Black.
The Raiders are looking to bounce back from a 21-13 loss in Kansas City that cost them the AFC West lead and, for the time being, a first-round playoff bye.
“We’re looking forward to everything that we have in front of us,” running back Latavius Murray said. “Our goals, they’re still right in front of us. That’s how we re-focusing. We want to be playing postseason so we can give ourselves a chance to play for the big one. It starts Sunday.”
The Raiders can clinch a playoff spot on the same field where they were embarrassed in their previous postseason appearance, a 48-21 Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay on Jan. 26, 2003.
In their second year under coach Jack Del Rio, they finally have their first winning record since 2002.
The Chargers, meanwhile, are in dismal decline, heading toward missing the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons, and maybe headed toward a new home in Los Angeles.
There have been games in the past few years in which the Chargers have felt as if they were the road team in their own stadium.
Anticipating a pro-Raiders crowd Sunday, the Chargers practiced Wednesday with piped-in crowd noise, which they usually do only in preparation for road games.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, coming off a five-turnover performance in a loss at Carolina, couldn’t recall the team doing that before.
“It’s just being aware of what it’s going to be like,” said Rivers, who leads the NFL with 17 interceptions.
Asked if he had a guess at the percentage of Raiders fans vs. Chargers fans will be, he said: “We’ll find out. I have no expectations.”
Some things to look for in what could be the last time this rivalry dating to the birth of the AFL in 1960 is played in San Diego:
STADIUM SAGAS: Raiders owner Mark Davis says he’s committed to moving the team to Las Vegas, where a $1.9 billion stadium project has been approved, including $750 million in public money. Davis has from the end of the Raiders’ season until Feb. 15 to apply for relocation.
Chargers chairman Dean Spanos, son of owner Alex Spanos, appears to be leaning toward moving to Los Angeles and eventually joining the Rams in a stadium in Inglewood scheduled to open in 2019. Spanos’ efforts to land a large public subsidy to replace Qualcomm Stadium have failed. He angered the fan base last year with a failed attempt to move to Carson and share a stadium with the archrival Raiders.
Spanos has said he won’t announce a decision until after the season. The Chargers’ run in San Diego could end with their season finale on New Year’s Day.
RESTART THE CARR: Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will try to bounce back from perhaps the worst game of his career. Carr went 17 for 41 for 117 yards in the 21-13 loss to the Chiefs, posting a career-low 49.1 rating. Carr has his second-lowest completion percentage in a game and set a worst with 2.85 yards per attempt. Carr has won his past three starts against the Chargers with six TD passes, two INTs and a 98.8 rating.
“It was just execution,” Carr said. “It was literally inches. There were a whole bunch of plays I think about that we always hit that for whatever reason, sometimes it was good feet and the route was good, and we just missed by an inch. Sometimes that happens in practice and you never want it to happen in games.”
SACK STREAK: Raiders pass rusher Khalil Mack is on quite a roll when it comes to getting the quarterback. Mack has sacks in eight straight games, tying the franchise record set by Lance Johnstone in 1998. The previous NFL player with a sack in nine straight was Dwight Freeney, who did it in 2008-09. Mack leads the NFL with nine sacks overall during the streak. Mack has also managed to get the ball out when he records a sack with forced fumbles in three straight games and five of the past six.
RUN TO DAYLIGHT: After being held to 86 yards on the ground during two wins against Houston and Carolina, the Raiders have found their running game in recent weeks. Oakland has rushed for 274 yards the past two games, led by Latavius Murray, who ran for 185 yards and three TDs in those games. Murray has run for 12 TDs already this season, tied for third most in franchise history, behind Marcus Allen’s 13 in 1984 and Pete Banaszak’s 16 in 1975.
CHARGERS WOES: Running back Melvin Gordon is expected to miss the game with a hip injury, and cornerback Brandon Flowers went on season-ending injured reserve with a concussion.