AFC Playoffs

Rivers7

 

Dark and stormy times are surrounding America’s most beautiful city.  We all know about the different scenarios if the Chargers beat San Francisco and Kansas City.  Needing help from other teams to get in.  Like most of you, I would prefer just cheering on the Chargers and not have to show any signs of allegiance towards teams like Cleveland or Houston.

There has been so much negativity this season, especially these past few weeks.  Can we blame those nay-sayers?  Here are some examples of what San Diego and their fans have had to deal with recently:

 

  1. The talk about a new stadium/city.
  2. The Chargers were once one of the hottest teams in the NFL but then a three-game losing streak happened.  What followed was a 3 game winning streak where the combined margin of victory was 3.67 points, and now a current two game losing streak.
  3. Rivers once lead the MVP ballots and now shows mediocre numbers all the while talks of him not being an elite QB consume social media.
  4. Injuries have continued to spread like the mumps in the NHL.
  5. Charger players are actually vocalizing about the opposing fans out-numbering the home faithful.

 

Perhaps they need a hand up – it is the holiday season after all.  Having to play with their backs against the wall, along with gifts from other teams, might turn out for the better after all.  In looking back, the Chargers made a good run last year and again back in 2008 under the same types of situations.  In those years not only did they need to win to get in, but they needed others to fail; such as this season.  Sure it is stressful times for players, coaches, management and fans when our hopes of glory comes down to winning out, and getting help from the outside.  But what a rush right?!!??  Take last year for example, when the Chiefs missed that FG, how loud did you scream?  How many bottles of whatever you were drinking ended up broken on the floor?

 

Do you all remember what we accomplished in the playoffs last year?  We went into Cincinnati facing a team that had not lost at home during the regular season and who had also claimed victory against San Diego weeks prior.  Since your memories are in full force, take the time travel portal back to 2008.  The Super Chargers had clinched a playoff berth and AFC West title after the last game of the season.  We then beat the Manning-lead Colts on their own turf.  Both of these seasons we would lose the next round, however we extended our optimistic joy about the team, even if it was for one extra week.

 

Now take the 2006 season.  We were the best.  Super Bowl bound the Chargers were, and the first seed is what they achieved; along with our only MVP to put in the trophy case.  Our confidence was soaring high.  Bolt believers were laid back believing that nobody could touch us; The Untouchables.   Then…..the interception was fumbled.  In 2009, the Chargers had clinched the AFC West in week 15 which resulted in home-field advantage in the playoffs and…a one-and-done loss to the Jets.  Somewhat similar is the 2004 season when, in week 15, the Cinderella story Lightning Bolts cemented entry into the playoffs as well as the AFC West title; only to, again, be one-and-done with a loss to the Jets.

 

This season, like others in our most recent past, has been an emotional roller coaster.  As much as I would prefer to win every game and not have to worry about every single loss, or count on another team losing, it seems that perhaps we live for this type of stressful, thrill-seeking adventure; we yearn for it.  Sounds ridiculous but hear me out: What did we all used to pretend would happen when we were alone playing ball in our backyards as kids?

 

“It’s the bottom of the ninth in Game 7 of the World Series. Two down, base loaded and the tying run on second.  There’s the pitch..BOOM!…little Johnny goes back, leaps over the fence and catches the ball to win the game!  The crowd goes wild!”

 

“4th down, team is down by 4.  The QB is reading the defense.  Hut..Hut…HIKE!  The QB has to scramble and with no time left on the clock, he chucks it down field and…..it’s caught!!!  Johnny catches it in the endzone to win the Super Bowl!!!”

 

Or how many times do we still do this today with a balled up piece of paper and a trash can:

 

“10 seconds on the clock and down by 1, Johnny brings the ball up the court with Michael Jordan in his face.  9….8….7….6…..5….4….3..Johnny shoots the ball….2……1…SWISH!”  

 

As euphoric as it might have been to patiently wait for the playoffs to start and not be concerned with the final two games of the regular season, our team is making this an edge-of-your-seat thriller.  December is Philip’s month and even though we are 0-2 to start, he has that fiery edge of competitive spirit we all love to see.  December is knocking Rivers and company around in the ring so far, but like Joe Frazier coming back fighting through an injured right hand against Ali in 1975, he is not going down without a fight.  Would we or our Bolts want it any other way?

 

“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption.

There is still hope Charger fans.  Hope for a new stadium.  Hope that despite the injuries, the boys in blue and yellow will get red-hot and march into the playoffs.  Hope that our fearless leader, and toughest QB in the game, plays to an elite level.  And with hope spreads optimism.  Isn’t it more enjoyable to hang on to even a shred of hope than to wrap up in pessimism and negativity?  I for one, am ready for this week-to-week thriller and who knows…maybe the good guys win in the end.

 

 

  • BWK

ten

 

 

After a three-game losing streak, capped by a 37-0 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Chargers have regrouped and reeled off three straight wins. San Diego has looked impressive in their previous two outings, showing tremendous heart in a 27-24 home win against a tough St. Louis team and a 34-33 road win against a potential AFC playoff team in the Baltimore Ravens. Last week’s win against Baltimore may be a season defining win, much like the last second win in Kansas City last year, and Phillip Rivers once again showed us that he is an elite quarterback in the NFL.

The comeback win helped improve the Chargers playoff chances tremendously. Going into Week 13 the Chargers had a 16.5% chance of making the playoffs, and the win against the Ravens (along with losses from other AFC playoff contenders) brought their playoff chances up to 41.3% (according to fivethirtyeight.com). The win against Baltimore added separation between the Chargers and the rest  of the AFC Wildcard hopefuls. San Diego, sitting at 8-4, is currently the 5th seed in the AFC playoff picture, and they control their own destiny for the final 4 weeks of the regular season.

It’s no secret that the Bolts face one of the most daunting schedules in the NFL. San Diego will play host to the New England Patriots (9-3) Sunday night and the Denver Broncos (9-3) the following week. Then the Bolts will travel North to face the San Francisco 49ers (7-5) in Week 16, and they will finish the season against division-rival Kansas City (7-5) at Arrowhead. If the season were to end today, two out of the four remaining opponents would be in the playoffs (New England and Denver), and the other two (San Francisco and Kansas City) are both very much alive the NFC and AFC wildcard races, respectively. There’s a good chance that the Bolts will be underdogs in all of their remaining games, so it’s tough to pick out a game that San Diego will definitely win. However, I am under the belief that if the Chargers can find a way to get to 10 wins they’ll improve their chances of a playoff berth tremendously.

According to sportsclubstats.com, if the Chargers find a way to finish the season with 10 wins their probability of making the playoffs would be a solid 66.8%, with a 21% chance at the 5th seed (@Indianapolis) and a 45% chance at the 6th seed (@Cincinnati). However, if the Chargers can somehow find a way to reach 11 wins their playoff chances increase to a perfect 100%. If the Chargers can win 11 games, with one of those wins coming against Denver in Week 15, we may be talking about an AFC West Championship rather than a Wildcard berth.

San Diego could drastically improve their playoff chances with a win against the Patriots tomorrow. According to fivethirtyeight.com, if the Chargers win Sunday their playoff chances will increase to 61.4%, a margin of 20.1%. The Chargers will enter their prime time tilt against New England as four point underdogs, A win against a Patriots team. coming off loss against the 9-3 Green Bay Packers, may be tough come by, but Phillip Rivers’ 29-3 record in December will play in the Bolts favor. If San Diego is going to win this game they will need outstanding play from Phillip Rivers once again, which is something we’ve come to expect of Phillip in the month of December.

**Stats and percentage numbers come from fivethirtyeight.com and sportsclubstats.com 

homecomCA1

A NFL team is typically comprised of players from all over the nation; including various countries. When it comes down to traveling back to their hometown, players can’t help but feel emotional to be able to play in the city they grew up; often in front of friends and family. For five current San Diego Chargers, heading back to Miami is more than just a homecoming engagement; it’s redemption.

The Chargers are currently headed east to prepare for Sunday’s matchup against the Dolphins; a game that hasn’t been won in over 33 years. Players Corey Liuget, Tourek Williams, Brandon Flowers, Branden Oliver, and the former Dolphin Ronnie Brown all head back to a place they made so many memories in. I will bet that the song, Coming Home by American rapper Diddy, is blaring in almost all of these five players’ headphones on the trip there; reminding them that this is one of the most important games they will play this season.

Last year’s game against Miami didn’t end pretty. The Chargers lost by only four points, but don’t let the game score fool you; it wasn’t the teams’ better performances. Miami held San Diego to a single touchdown and without any in the final three quarters of the game. Miami’s terribly ranked rushing game, 26th of 32 teams, was able to rack up over 100 rushing yards against the Chargers. If that didn’t sound ugly enough, the Chargers team had ten penalties for a total of seventy-six yards and went 1 for 3 in the red zone. However, this was last year and the Chargers know how vital this win is for the team.

Have I mentioned that this game is extremely important? It paves the AFC playoff picture and a chance to abolish the 33 year slump. For these five players, going home to mommy and daddy isn’t on their mind; defeating the Dolphins is strictly all business. For Ronnie Brown, losing is not an option; he spent the first six season’s in the NFL with Miami before leaving to Philadelphia via Free Agency. Now a Charger, he is seeking revenge the second time around. You know the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”; you can guarantee that Ronnie will not be fooled this time around.

The stout rookie Branden Oliver looks to also make a splash in South Beach. After an unproductive game against the Denver Broncos last week, BO is determined to start back where he left off after the New York Jets game. With Donald Brown back in the lineup, the run game should show a significant improvement from previous weeks.

Corey Liuget is also heading back to his hometown with vengeance. After a poor performance in last year’s game, he too is looking for payback. Last year, Liuget totaled 5.5 sacks for the year with 42 tackles combined; in the Miami game he had zero sacks and only three tackles. Numbers like these do not impress Liuget, and he now looks to improve from last year. This game not only adds to a rich history with the Dolphins, it fuels the fire for these five men and their teammates.

“Any given Sunday” is commonly said by many football fans and enthusiasts, but the Chargers are seeking more than that. This isn’t just a regular Sunday, but a homecoming to remember for years to come.

 

Briana Soltis

ChargersDolphins

 

 

Each season is different than the previous in the NFL, while teams relentlessly attempt to improve from prior years. For the Chargers, it has been the last 32 seasons since they have accomplished what they have not since 1982 ( A historic playoff win by a score of 41-38 in one of the best games ever played). That being said, there is some unfinished business still to take care of this week. Heading into week nine, coming with a vengeance, doesn’t even begin to describe the team’s mission.

The Chargers are set to travel to Miami this Sunday and faceoff against the Dolphins. What many may not know is that the Chargers have not won in Miami during the regular season since 1980; even before many fans were born. It’s been over 33 years, a long and drawn out tenure that needs to be demolished and broken this Sunday. Forget the three divisional games played in a row, forget the loss in Denver after only having four days off, and forget that it’s difficult for a west coast team to travel over four hours to play an east coast team because this game is probably the most significant game of this season up to this point.

After Sunday, the Chargers enter their severely needed bye week. Going into Miami with a record of 5-3 isn’t terrible, but if they don’t leave at 6-3, their season is in tremendous jeopardy. No, the sky isn’t falling, but the Bolts face a tough stretch of games to finish off the regular season. Right now there are five AFC teams with a 5-3 record and three teams with a 4-3 record – Miami being one of those 4-3 teams. Already looking at the playoff picture, the Chargers absolutely need to win and head into the bye week at 6-3. If they don’t, the four other 5-3 team’s chances to snag the only two playoff wildcard spots are favorable, leaving the Chargers with no playoff appearance and some incredible soul-searching. It’s vital, like the desert needs rain, for San Diego to accomplish something they haven’t been able to in 3 decades.

It’s no secret that the Chargers are banged up and injured. Even Peyton Manning acknowledged the fact that the Chargers are in desperate need of their key players that are currently rehabilitating to get back on the field. Yet, the Dolphins don’t care. Why should they? It’s already predicted for the ‘Phins to win while adding a home field advantage to the equation.

San Diego has one of the worst rushing offenses right now; ranking 30th in the league facing Miami’s 16th ranked rushing defense. However, it’s Philip Rivers’ arm that can lead them to victory. The Dolphins given up seven touchdown passes in the last three home games. Rivers and company need to perform flawlessly in order to dismantle Miami’s secondary. With the possibility of Donald Brown coming back, and Branden Oliver continuing to impress with his talents, San Diego also looks primed to have a big rushing game against the Dolphins. Miami has allowed 11 rushing TD’s in their last 10 home games. Additionally, they have allowed 3 rushing scores at home this year. With stats like that, there’s absolutely no reason for the Chargers to not come up successful on offense.

Just imagine the plan ride home if the Chargers can get the job done. Envision the celebratory atmosphere and the utmost satisfaction of achieving something that hasn’t been done in decades. The win in Miami isn’t just needed, it’s crucial. The Charger players know how important this is and how it will pave the way back into back-to-back playoff appearances – something that has not been done since 2009. A moment in history will be made this Sunday, but which instant will occur? Another year added onto the already miserable 33? Or will the slump finally be broken? Stay tuned on Sunday and you will find out.

 

Briana Soltis

tuck rule

 

Last Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop lined up to kick a 41-yard field goal that would give the Chiefs a victory and simultaneously eliminate the Chargers from the playoffs. After a wild game and a great second half effort from the Chargers, all hope was about to go down the drain. Again. Another year, no playoffs. Same old Chargers, a day late and a dollar short. The ball was snapped, the kick went up, then the improbable happened.

Succop missed.

As we all know by now, the Chargers won the game in overtime and got the last AFC golden ticket into the playoffs. After the game, attention was called to a missed penalty on the fateful field goal attempt. In short, the Chargers lined up seven players to the left side of the formation when NFL rules state that no more than six players are allowed to be on any one side of the formation.

Had the referees caught the misalignment, Succop would’ve had a rekick from five yards closer. The result had no impact on the Chiefs, they had already locked in their seed for the playoffs and were playing the game with reserves. Fans in Pittsburgh were upset because the no-call eliminated them from the playoffs. The Steelers would have got in if the Chargers lost.

All long suffering Chargers fans know that these are the types of mental errors that have cost the Chargers dearly in the past. The Chargers have been adept at ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Bad penalties, bad clock management and untimely injuries have derailed past Chargers teams destined for greatness. Non calls like this one don’t go the Chargers way. Ever.

That game, that no-call, that missed kick could signal a shedding of the ‘same old Chargers’ to the Chargers of this year and beyond. That play was fate finally smiling on the Chargers. That game is one more degree of separation between the Norv/AJ era and the Telesco/McCoy era. To that end, my best example of a similar moment in football history:

The Tuck Rule Game

In the Tuck Rule game pitting New England vs. Oakland in the 2001-02 playoffs,  Tom Brady began to throw, pulled the ball back down and had the ball knocked out by the Raiders Charles Woodson. The Raiders recovered and the game would have been over. The referees reviewed the play and overturned the call, ruling it an incomplete forward pass. The Patriots won the game and two games later won the Super Bowl.

That call changed the fortunes of both franchises. The Raiders have not had a winning season since the 2002 playoffs and the team on the fortunate side of the call, New England, has had ten wins or more every season since the Tuck Rule game.

The great Missed Call game of 2013 could wind up being one of those seminal moments in Chargers history. The Chargers have bounced back from their first losing season in a decade and made the playoffs as soon as new management was put in place. The new regime has found talent and a system that maximizes the abilities of its franchise quarterback and numerous offensive weapons.

The Chargers enter the postseason on the second longest win streak of any team in the playoffs. This team is finding ways to win and coming together as a team. This playoff run, however long or short it is, will change the locker room culture. Very few remain from the yearly playoff runs during the Ladainian Tomlinson era. The playoffs will galvanize the Chargers and with Telesco and McCoy at the controls, the team will only get better. A long run as playoff entrants await. The winds of change are blowing in San Diego.

And for once, the Chargers have a reason to thank the refs.

 

 

You all know the drill when it comes to these poll articles.  Place your vote and then leave a comment at the bottom stating why you voted the way that you did.

Although the odds are not forever in our favor – a little Hunger Games reference – I do feel there is a good chance that when the ball kicks off at Qualcomm Stadium the Chargers may be in position to earn the first playoff visit since the 2009 season.

I know it’s been talked about ad nauseum, but just a quick reminder of what help the Bolts need on Sunday.

– The Cincinnati Bengals must beat the Baltimore Ravens

– The New York Jets must beat the Miami Dolphins.

But what I think doesn’t matter for the purpose of this poll.  Place your vote.  Leave a comment.  And we’ll all discuss it below.

 

Will both the Bengals and the Jets get wins on Sunday?

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Thanks a lot for reading and voting.

 

Booga Peters

 

 

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