The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Neighbours Palmer, Turner go at it in Raiders-Chargers rivalry Thursday night
SAN DIEGO - If Norv Turner wanted to stir things up in the Raiders-Chargers rivalry, he could sneak over to his neighbour's house in upscale Del Mar and stick a "Go Chargers" sign in the front yard or even paint a lightning bolt on the garage door.
Carson Palmer could get back at Turner in the off-season by putting a Raiders sticker on Turner's car, or maybe paint his mailbox silver and black.
This long, bitter rivalry has seen many things over the years, from the Holy Roller to brawls in the stands to LaDainian Tomlinson tormenting the Black Hole.
But a neighbourly touch?
It'll have one Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium thanks to Palmer getting jolted out of his semi-retirement in Southern California via a trade from the Cincinnati Bengals to the Raiders.
"We're not very far from each other," Turner said. "They can hear our dogs bark and I can every once in a while hear their kids either laughing or crying."
After promising starts, the Raiders and Chargers are tied at 4-4 with Kansas City atop the mediocre AFC West. The Raiders are 0-2 since getting Palmer, who will be making his second start and third appearance. The Chargers have lost three straight after the fastest start in Turner's five-year tenure with San Diego.
After Thursday night, either Turner or Palmer will have bragging rights in their seaside burg. However, those could ultimately go to another Del Mar resident, Aaron Rodgers, whose undefeated Packers beat the Chargers 45-38 on Sunday and face the Raiders on Dec. 11 in Green Bay.
Then again, Palmer could yell, "Dude, mow my lawn," at Turner at any point Thursday night, since he led the lowly Bengals to a shocking victory in December that crushed the Chargers' playoffs hopes. Palmer threw four TD passes that day, including one that led Turner to turn to then-defensive co-ordinator Ron Rivera and say, "What happened?"
Palmer, though, has been anything but sharp with the Silver and Black, throwing three interceptions in each of his last two games. San Diego's Philip Rivers has had a shocking run of turnovers that now totals an NFL-high 17, including 14 interceptions.
"It's a great opportunity for somebody this Thursday," Palmer said. "It's great to be in the thick of it, and be in the hunt, and our team understands where we are and the opportunity that is in front of us. We expect to go out and play good football."
That would be a change for both teams.
The Raiders became desperate for a quarterback after Jason Campbell broke his collarbone during a win over the Browns. They lost badly to division rivals Kansas City and Denver after getting Palmer, who was sitting out after demanding a trade from Cincinnati.
"In my mind, I was semi-retired," Palmer said. "I was still working out. I was only throwing a couple times a week, but I was hanging out with the family a lot, running around doing kind of honey-do things around the house that I hadn't gotten done. I wasn't really sure. It was tough to focus on working out and training when you think it's kind of for nothing, because I thought I might not be playing this year. So it was just a weird time."
Coach Hue Jackson estimates that Palmer has grasped about 70 per cent of the playbook.
"I feel like I've been cramming for a final exam for about three weeks now," Palmer said. "It's been a ton of info in a short amount of time and really trying to kind of weed through some things and figure out what fits me best and our team best. Trying to figure out how to exploit my strengths and the guys around me, (their) strengths. It's been fun. It's been a huge challenge, and right now I'm really starting to feel comfortable and good in what we're doing."
Centre Samson Satele has another take on it.
"I am mad. The team is mad. We got our butts whipped last two games, gave away the last one ... but it should come out fine if we win this next one," he said.
And then there are the bumbling Chargers, who looked sharp at times in the loss to the Packers, only to be undone by Rivers' three interceptions. Two were returned for touchdowns and the third killed their final drive.
The Chargers are still smarting from being swept by the Raiders last year, including a punishing 28-13 loss on Dec. 5 in which Oakland ran for 251 yards.
"We lost both of them last year and obviously that had a big impact on us not making the post-season. So it's a huge game for both teams," Rivers said.
Prior to the Green Bay loss, the Chargers had meltdowns at Kansas City and the New York Jets.
"Regardless of what happened thus far, good or bad, we can't change it," Rivers said. "We've got an eight-game season that starts Thursday night. There's three teams deadlocked in the division and Denver's spotting us all a game. They're right there in the thick of it. All four teams are alive. We've got eight to go. We'll see what happens."
If the Chargers think their injury situation is bad, the Raiders had 11 players miss practice Tuesday.
Darren McFadden, who gained 97 yards in the game at San Diego in December, hasn't practised since spraining his right foot Oct. 23 and is unlikely to play, as is cornerback Chris Johnson (groin, hamstring).
The Chargers will be without LG Kris Dielman (concussion) for the third straight game. Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips (foot) is expected to miss his third straight game while wideout Malcom Floyd (hip) could miss his second. Oft-injured running back Ryan Mathews is expected to be back after missing the Green Bay game with groin injury.
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in Oakland contributed to this report.
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