There's something about facing the San Diego Chargers that brings out the best in Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer.
At least that's what the numbers say as Palmer approaches Monday night's regular season opener against San Diego at the O.co Coliseum.
Palmer has faced the Chargers five times in his career, and he's put up some stunning stats, starting with a 122.5 passer rating and a touchdown to interception ratio of 13 to 3. He has completed 116 of 166 passes – 69.9 percent – for 1,739 yards and has averaged 347.8 passing yards per game against San Diego.
Last year as a Raider, Palmer faced the Chargers twice and completed a combined 42 of 63 passes for 716 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Palmer threw for 417 yards, the third highest total in franchise history, in the season-finale against San Diego, connecting on a career-high tying 78-yard pass to Denarius Moore and completing nine passes to Darrius Heyward-Bey.
So of course Palmer will enter Monday night's game with an extremely high comfort level, right?
“No,” Palmer said, without hesitation. “It's a good (defensive) unit. Defensively, they've looked really good on film in the preseason. They played well against us last year in the finale. Their offense can score a ton of points. There's a lot of things to worry about. There's a new (defensive) coordinator.
“Week 1, you never know exactly what you're going to see. You've got to be ready for everything. So we're not real, real comfortable going into this. We're working extremely hard. We're going to go in and we know we have to play our best football offensively to come out with a win.”
Despite his big passing numbers, Palmer is just 2-3 for his career against San Diego and 1-1 as a Raider.
Palmer grew up in Southern California and has a home in Del Mar, a suburb of San Diego. He and Chargers coach Norv Turner just happen to be neighbors. Last offseason when there was a lockout, Turner and Palmer, whose wives have become friends, bumped into each other occasionally in Del Mar. This year, Palmer spent most of the offseason hard at work at team headquarters in Alameda, and Turner hunkered down at his office as the Chargers remade their roster.
“With all the changes they had in Oakland, I know he spent a lot of time up there getting ready, and with everything we had going on here it was that kind of offseason,” Turner said. “We didn't have a lockout where we could see each other walking on the beach or anything like that.”
Palmer faced San Diego both times last year without injured running back Darren McFadden in the backfield. McFadden suffered a season-ending foot injury early in the first half against Kansas City on Oct. 23. Palmer, who came to the Raiders five days earlier from Cincinnati in a trade, made his Raiders debut in the second half that day.
“To me, the more great players, the more players you have that can make explosive plays on the field, the harder you'll be to defend,” Turner said. “McFadden is a guy that throughout a game will make explosive plays. You have to minimize those plays. Obviously, if you're putting your attention into him to minimize those plays, then it adds opportunities for someone else. Carson played awfully well against us in both games. We got a lot of respect for what he's capable of doing.”
Palmer said he can't wait to see what it's like to play a regular-season game with McFadden on the field.
“I wanted the opportunity to play with him last year, and it was such a tease in the preseason because he's really only gotten a series here or there. I'm like a kid in a candy store,” Palmer said. “I cannot wait. Just the little that we've seen of him in the preseason, he brings so much to the field. I'm more excited about that than anything.”
Ditto for McFadden.
“I'm very excited,” McFadden said. “Just going through the OTAs with him, seeing him here in training camp, we've had a lot of great things going. When we go out there Monday it's going to be great for us.”
Follow Raiders reporter Eric Gilmore on Twitter: @CBSSportsNFLOAK.