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San Diego Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers, #17, prepares to throw while being chased by Oakland Raiders' Derrick Burgess, #56, in the 4th quarter of their game on Sunday, December 29, 2007 at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. San Diego defeated Oakland 30-17. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Contra Costa Times)

The Raiders have played against Philip Rivers enough to know he's not going into a shell because of a few interceptions.

More than a few, actually.

The Chargers starting quarterback has 14 interceptions in eight games, leading the NFL and just one off his career high of 15 in 2007. He had two returned for touchdowns last week against Green Bay, leading various pundits and analysts to take Rivers apart psychologically.

All defensive tackle Tommy Kelly needs to know is that Rivers has won eight of 10 starts against the Raiders (with both losses coming last season) and that the quarterback will be unafraid to challenge the Oakland secondary.

"Phil has always been like a gunslinger," Kelly said. "He's going to give you a chance. It's just so happened this year that it hasn't gone his way. But playing against Phil all of these years, man, he's going to be ready to play.

"It don't matter what he did against Green Bay. All he's worried about is trying to torch the Raiders. He ain't worried about no picks."

The Raiders are going from a run-first option quarterback in Tim Tebow who threw sparingly to a downfield passer who likes nothing better than putting the ball up to where some of his angular receivers, most notably 6-foot-5 wide receiver Vincent Jackson and 6-4 tight end Antonio Gates, can go get it.

"There's a fine line. You've got to keep playing and keep throwing it," Rivers told Bay Area reporters by conference call Tuesday. "I've made some poor decisions and some poor throws, and I've had a couple that have gotten tipped and unfortunately can't find the ground. I don't have any lost confidence."

Jackson might be rivaled only by Detroit's Calvin Johnson as a jump-and-catch receiver. He is coming off a seven-catch, 141-yard game against Green Bay with three touchdowns and has 34 receptions for 613 yards and six touchdowns.

The Raiders' Stanford Routt, whom Rivers likened to the departed Nnamdi Asomugha, is the cornerback most physically equipped to deal with Jackson one-on-one at a long-armed 6-1 and 195 pounds.

Raiders coach Hue Jackson said, "Our corners have to put their hands on him, they have to get in his face, we have to harass him and knock him off his routes while he's going to be doing everything he can to stay on his routes and catch passes."

Gates has 25 catches for 297 yards and two scores and could be more of a factor because 6-5 wideout Malcom Floyd is out because of injury.

"The thing about Rivers is he's got a lot of confidence in those guys," Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch said. "Even if they're well-covered, he's going to throw the ball up to them and let them try to make a play."

Cornerback Lito Sheppard, who could see significant time because of injuries in the secondary, is 5-8 and the shortest Raiders cornerback.

"I look at it like mosquitoes on humans," Sheppard said. "You want to be a nag. You've got to be as physical as you can, make 'em work as hard as you can. You know big guys like that are going to make some plays, so I've got to make sure if I don't get it they fall down hard."

One thing the Raiders have going for them defensively is the element of surprise. Other than a late sequence in last season's 35-27 win at Oakland when former defensive coordinator John Marshall blitzed Rivers heavily -- and with good results -- the Raiders have usually played San Diego straight up.

Jackson has instructed defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan to bring more pressure, and the Raiders in some games have blitzed heavily.

"There are some games where it seems like someone is coming on every play, and there have been others where they only put pressure on with their front four," Rivers said. "They're really diverse, but the thing that always stands out when you play the Raiders is they're big and they're fast."

Thursday's game
Raiders (4-4) at San Diego (4-4), 5:20 p.m., NFL Network, CW