Raiders’ new era begins in front of national audience

Getty Images File PhotoStarting anew: Quarterback Carson Palmer is set to begin his first full season with the Raiders tonight.

The Raiders begin their latest quest for an elusive playoff berth under new coach Dennis Allen tonight when they host the San Diego Chargers in the season opener for both teams.

Oakland has not reached the postseason since 2002, when it lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Raiders went 11-5 that year, their last season with a winning record.

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Full seasons from two key offensive players could help Oakland get back to the postseason. Quarterback Carson Palmer appeared in only 10 games last year after being acquired from Cincinnati, throwing for 2,753 yards and 13 touchdowns. Meanwhile, running back Darren McFadden was limited to seven contests in 2011 due to a foot injury.

Oakland has shown improvement of late, going 8-8 each of the past two seasons following seven straight campaigns with fewer than six victories. But one area that hasn’t changed over the years is penalties. Oakland set NFL records with 163 penalties for 1,358 yards last season, and Allen’s well aware his club needs to be more disciplined.

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” Allen said.

“We’ve got to change, and if we don’t change we’ll see the same results. That’s the message we’ve preached, and we’re going to continue preaching it until the end of the season.”

The Raiders have won nine of their last 12 games against AFC West foes, but have had little success against San Diego recently, losing 14 of the past 17 overall meetings and seven of eight at home.

The Chargers, whose 38-26 road triumph in the 2011 season finale cost the Raiders the division title, have missed the playoffs each of the past two years after claiming the AFC West four consecutive times.

San Diego will likely rely heavily on quarterback Philip Rivers, who has thrown for 4,000 yards or more yards in four straight campaigns, with running back Ryan Mathews out for today’s game. Mathews is still recovering from a broken clavicle he suffered in the preseason.

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