- Associated Press - Saturday, November 15, 2014

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Reinforcements have arrived for the San Diego Chargers, who also are getting some help from the schedule-makers.

The winless Oakland Raiders (0-9) will be in town Sunday, when the Chargers (5-4) try to snap a three-game losing streak, which included their worst loss in 18 seasons.

Running back Ryan Mathews and inside linebacker Manti Te’o are expected to return for the Chargers, who also might have linebacker Melvin Ingram back in the lineup. The trio has been out since September.

The Chargers are taking the infusion with some perspective. The bulk of their five-game winning streak came without Mathews, Te’o and Ingram, as did the three straight losses, which included a lackluster 37-0 defeat at Miami on Nov. 2.

“No question it makes us a better football team,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “But it doesn’t guarantee that we are just going to go out there and play great. But it is certainly nice to have them out there.”

The Raiders, meanwhile, haven’t won in almost a year. Their previous victory was against Houston on Nov. 17, 2013.

But they almost beat the Chargers on Oct. 12 before rookies Branden Oliver and Jason Verrett saved San Diego.

Rookie Derek Carr threw four touchdown passes that day for the Raiders.

“One thing for me is you know their personnel,” Carr said. “For me as a rookie, that’s always something that’s unknown. You can see something on film, but until you’re really out there playing against somebody and you see him for the first time, you don’t really know. So that’s something that’s really helpful.”

Here are some things to watch for when the Raiders visit the Chargers:

ROAD TO NOWHERE? The Raiders are the only winless team in the NFL and are trying to avoid becoming just the second to go 0-16 in a season.

They’re 10-point underdogs against the Chargers.

“To be honest, if you were to come and just hang out in our locker room or hang out in our meetings, guys are driven to get better,” Carr said. “When the effort goes down, that’s bad. The energy level is honestly like we’re 9-0. Guys are running around still striving to do what they can to make this thing right.

“Hopefully it will be sooner than later, but it’s going to happen one of these days.”

BOLTS BETTER BE READY: Oakland led by four points late in the game against the Chargers earlier this year, until Oliver scored on a 1-yard run with 1:56 left. The Chargers then sealed it with an interception by Verrett, who’s out indefinitely with a shoulder injury that at some point will require surgery.

“I don’t pay much attention to the record any week we play,” Rivers said. “You watch it on tape and you know how the game was when you played them four or five weeks ago. I don’t get caught up in the record. There is a lot of respect we have for those guys on the defense. You see every week teams that … it’s the NFL.”

RUN RYAN RUN: Mathews finally got through a full season in 2013, rushing for a career-high 1,255 yards and going to the Pro Bowl. Then he sprained his right knee during an upset of the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2. He was hurt after fumbling, when teammate Eddie Royal landed on him while going for the ball.

“I feel great,” Mathews said. “I’ve been watching from the sideline. I mean, it’s hard to watch my teammates, my friends, go out there and have fun and play the game. I’m just happy to be back out there.”

The Chargers could use a strong effort from Mathews. Their running game has been lagging, in no small part due to poor play by the line.

The Chargers will have to find out how much of a workload Mathews is ready to take. He returned to practice during the bye week.

“He’s brought fresh legs, energy, in his quiet way,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “He brings a strength and toughness and certainly his presence out there has been felt and we’re looking forward to him being on the field on Sunday.”

NO RUSH HOUR: The Chargers’ pass rush has virtually disappeared, with only three sacks in the past four games - none in the past two - after dropping the opposing quarterback 12 times in the first five games.

“We’ve got to really get our four-man rush going. That’s got to be the key to a lot of success, is not having to manufacture pressure all the time,” defensive coordinator John Pagano said.

The Chargers have three weeks to add Ingram to the active roster. He’s been on injured reserve/designated for return with a hip injury.

PLUMMETING PHILIP: Rivers went five straight games of posting a passer rating of 123.8 or better, including two games of 130 or better.

Then came the three-game losing streak and he failed to crack 100 in any of the losses.

The meltdown in Miami was one of his worst games with the Bolts. He was 12 of 23 for 138 yards and no touchdowns, with three interceptions, for a rating of 31.


Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/berniewilson


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