At 10-3, the Oakland Raiders have a record that would essentially seal a division-lead. But after falling to the Kansas City Chiefs last Thursday, their second KC loss of the season, Oakland is currently the projected fifth seed in the AFC and has another AFC West match this Sunday against the Chargers.
Though they beat the Bolts 34-31 in Week 5, Head Coach Jack Del Rio says the Raiders are in for a divisional challenge.
"They're a good football team and continuing to score a lot of points with Philip (Rivers) regardless of who's playing," Del Rio said. "They remain extremely productive and I think (Defensive Coordinator John) Pagano and the defense have done a really nice job."
With so much on the line for Oakland, Del Rio said he's not letting his players get swayed by the Bolts' 5-8 record.
"We just don't look at it like that at all. We have a great deal of respect for the players and coaches down there. I know (Head Coach) Mike McCoy personally. I know he's a great coach and I've gone up against this squad many times over the years. I've got a lot of respect for them and their talent and what they're doing. We're working hard on our preparation of getting prepared to (play) 60 minutes and know that it's a challenge."
One player they are game-planning for in particular is Joey Bosa.
Number 99 made his NFL debut against Oakland in Week 5 and notched a pair of sacks in the contest. Del Rio said the Raiders have placed an emphasis on protecting quarterback Derek Carr, but knows it won't be that easy with Bosa and the Bolts defense come Sunday.
"We saw (Bosa) first-hand when he came out and got two sacks against us. He's a disruptive player and a really good player. It looks like they found a good one there."
Meanwhile, linebacker Malcolm Smith echoed his head coach's sentiments about treating this game just like any other.
"In this league, you have to approach every game as the most important game," he said. "You can't look past anybody. (San Diego) is a good team and they're a division rival so they know us well and know how to play us well. We expect them to challenge us. We're going to go into that game as ready as possible and try to get the W."
Part of that preparation accounts for having a handle on Rivers. As Smith mentioned, he is a quarterback who "is always capable of getting a win."
"You just have to try and be disciplined. He's a tough challenge; you never know what you're going to get. He keeps you off balance the whole game because he does a lot of checking and stuff at the line."