Mile High Stadium
Man, oh man! What a day to be a Chargers fan!!
That was my reaction to the Chargers vs. Falcons game a few weeks back. And if you had Tyrell Williams in your fantasy football lineup that week – he reaped HUGE dividends! I have him on my team in two leagues and he was well over his projections: 15 points against an 8.64 in my Yahoo league while in my NFL League it was 14 versus an estimated 5.70 low.
Crazy to recall that this huge, raw talent was not invited to the NFL Combine. Guess he was considered too raw as he went undrafted.
That’s okay, because the Chargers picked him up. And while he didn’t see much on-field time until late last year, it’s all good.
Fast forward to 2016.
The 6’4″, 205 pounder made his way up the depth chart after an injury in training camp landed Stevie Johnson on IR. Shortly after that, the Bolts’ number one wide-out Keenan Allen was lost for the season. Where did that put Williams? Squarely in the starting line-up along with slot receiver and off-season signing Travis Benjamin.
During training camp last year, Chargers’ signal caller Philip Rivers made mention of how much Williams reminded him of Malcom Floyd; the way he moved, almost as if gliding his way down the field.
He is becoming adept at using that big body and 4.38 second speed to fly across the middle or along the sidelines. Through 10 games, Williams career stats are 43 catches for 720 yards and four TD scores. The Falcons game saw him mark career-highs in both targets (7 of 10) and receiving yards (140). To date, he is ninth in yards after the catch (YAC) with 317. That breaks down to an average of 7.4 YAC.
Those are all great. There are, however, a couple of things that Williams needs to tweak. One is his sideline awareness.
Early in the second quarter, first and 10 from Atlanta’s 49-yard line, Benjamin threw the ball towards Williams, who caught it and ran. A 22 yard bomb. While the toss took many by surprise, it was an awesome catch…except that it was called back incomplete. A simple nuance – dragging his right toe as he was going out of bounds would have been the difference of another set of downs rather than the challenge that followed. Second and 10 at Atlanta’s 49 yard line rather than first and 10. Sigh. The Bolts kick a field goal to cap that drive.
Williams was kind of quiet in the second half (3/4, 27 yds) as San Diego continued to run the ball with Gordon and began mixing Inman into the offense more. Williams’ last catch of the day converted a 3rd and 10 at the Falcons’ 15 yard line into a Chargers’ 1st and goal at Atlanta’s 5-yard line early in the fourth and Josh Lambo kicked a chip-shot to pull the Bolts’ within three.
The thing with Williams is that he is extremely adept at picking up those yards after the catch, much like Malcom Floyd was prone to do when Rivers was putting the ball up for him to nab. In just his second year, Williams and Rivers have quickly developed a rapport in which when No. 17 fires a bullet in his direction, he is confident that No. 16 is getting his hands on it. The game is not too big for him as he has continued to build on what began last December – opportunity knocking due to Floyd having to leave the Denver game. He hauled in his first NFL touchdown that day in front of Broncos’ corner Aquib Talib.
He hasn’t looked back since.
So what does Williams need to do at this stage of his development? One thing he MUST do is work on his route running. For example, we have all seen how at least a couple of times throughout a game he misses the option route. Those miscues just give Rivers fits. So far there have been 11 times where the chance for better field position has resulted in the ball not being in his hands. Overall better recognition of where the defender is in conjunction to when/where Williams should break or how deep into the route before he does will come with repetition. He needs to get a quicker break off the line of scrimmage also.
When Keenan Allen went down week one, it was Williams’ turn to step up. At that time, Rivers stated to Michael Gehlken (SD-UT) “We need him to catch a bunch of balls this year — a bunch of balls and have some huge days and big gains.”
From the apex of Atlanta to the debacle in Denver, Williams appeared to be hampered a bit in Mile High Stadium. Battling a knee injury had his status questionable all week, so perhaps limited practice time may have affected him in his running and timing ability. A tipped ball off his hands led to a 49-yard interception-TD by Bradley Roby and gave the Broncos the lead late in the second quarter. On the Bolts’ next series, Williams tweaked his knee again going after a pass and was done for the day. Targeted six times, he hauled in a lone catch for four yards.
Though still having a sore knee with minimal practice reps, Williams hauled in six Rivers’ passes for 65 yards and a score this past Sunday against the Titans. This week versus Miami, with fellow wide-out Travis Benjamin inactive with his own knee injury, Williams’ stat line was 5/125 and a TD. It could have been more if not for at least twice where he didn’t even look back to Rivers to recognize that the ball was headed in his direction. Or because he let the defender beat him to the ball and didn’t fight for it, thus causing an interception.
The chemistry between Williams and his signal caller continues to evolve with each rep in practice and on the field. After the Thursday Night game against Denver two weeks ago, Rivers told Tom Krasovic (SD-UT) “Tyrell, as you saw, has the potential to make every play. There’s not a play physically that he can’t make. It’s just a matter of continuing to grow as a receiver – running (optimal) routes.”
They say knowledge is power. Stepping in to fill the shoes of your team’s number one receiver at a moment’s notice shows one’s mettle to teammates and coaches alike.
So far, Tyrell Williams has proven he is up to the challenge. He MUST continue to do so for team to have any kind of chance at winning games.
Actually, I really don’t; not even close. I despise everything about that team, including their bandwagon fans. I cower at the thought of even saying Broncos and love in the same sentence. My hatred has grown stronger for the orange donkeys in recent years. Many would say they dislike the Oakland Raiders the most, however my disgust is for the Denver Broncos.
The Raiders have always been one of the most hated teams in the NFL and to most San Diego Charger fans, yet I loathe the Broncos ever since I could remember. I’m a little too young to have witnessed the ‘Holy Roller’ game, but I do remember the meltdown game a few years ago – the Chargers led at halftime 24-0, but ended up losing the game to their putrid rivals. I remember being at the bar, sitting on my stool, red in the face with the aggravation of orange and blue donkey fans screaming at me from across the building saying, “Chargers suck”. It’s only a game they say, but to me it’s pure war.
I’m not sure if it is the attitude most Denver fans have that their team is the best in the NFL, or that in recent years more and more fans jumped on the donkey bandwagon. I just can’t stand any of it or any of them. I can’t stand the insulting Philip Rivers’ memes or how the fans mock the San Diego Chargers. It makes my blood boil. Have you heard recently that the Denver Broncos are the new “America’s Team”? Ever since good old golden boy, Peyton Manning, stepped on the field of Mile High Stadium, fans across the nation have jumped on board. I can’t even count how many fans I have encountered that only cheer for the Broncos because of the fact that fat forehead Manning is now the quarterback. Quite frankly, I just want to push them all off the old squeaky carriage. I thought the Dallas Cowboy fans were bad, but the Bronco fans take the cake.
Does everyone remember watching last year’s Super Bowl game? I do, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Grinning from cheek to cheek, as the Seattle Seahawks demolished and embarrassed the Broncos in front of millions of viewers in the biggest football game of the year. Yet, that satisfaction doesn’t even compare to the two divisional matchups every season between the Chargers. I want the Broncos to lose every game they play and I want their fans to sulk in misery because of it.
Are the Broncos a good team? Sure, but I don’t care. I don’t care that their fans will always reference back to a Super Bowl ring from the late 90’s or that they claim to have the best offense in the league. I have even sworn to not even acknowledge the ugly blue and orange jersey wearing fans found outside their filthy barns. I don’t want anything to do with the Denver Broncos other than seeing a W in the win column after a Thursday Night Football game – or in any other games played between the two. This isn’t one of the better games to see this year, it is the game. This the ultimate duel between two rival teams and their fans. I’m a diehard Charger fan, bleeding blue and gold that will never like the Broncos or their bandwagon fans.
Before I begin…
This column is for entertainment purposes only. This column is not an endorsement of gambling, as gambling is highly illegal. That is, unless you’re in a licensed casino or other permitted gaming establishment, or playing small enough stakes it will never be noticed. (Office pools, home games, gentlemen’s bets etc..) On a side side note…no snitching. Bet responsibly. (That’s IF we were betting, which we’re not…) Bet only what you can afford, I don’t want anyone losing their homes and being forced to read my column from a shared computer in a Starbucks or something. That would be tragic.
There, that should take care of legal. On to the subject at hand.
The Las Vegas bookmakers are the go-to source for the odds to win in any sporting event. Like the casinos in Vegas, those brick and mortar palaces of overindulgence are built on the backs (and bank accounts) of visitors foolish enough to think they could out-think the ‘wiseguys’, more commonly known as the analytics gurus who set the betting lines. The house always wins and the wiseguys always win. Right?
Okay, well they’re right a majority of the time. However, Vegas has been wrong about the Chargers all season. If you had bet on the Chargers like a certain writer we all know who shall remain nameless, you would have beat Vegas and be in the midst of a three game win streak right now. How?
The Chargers were +3 underdogs to the Arizona Cardinals in week one. The game was decided by one point. Win.
In week two, the Chargers were +6.5 point underdogs to the Seattle Seahawks. We know how that game turned out. Win.
In week three, the Chargers were +2 point underdogs to the Buffalo Bills. Another win.
For the gambling illiterate, when the underdog wins, the bettor wins more money than he wagered. In three games, three bets on the Chargers would have all resulted in wins. Vegas had not picked the Chargers to win a game and each week the Chargers have proven them wrong.
That is, until now.
The wiseguys have finally decided to favor the Chargers for the first time this season in their week four tilt against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Vegas has made the Chargers 14-point favorites. A betting favorite has to beat the point spread to win. There is a game the wiseguys think the Chargers can win! Stop the presses! Of course, for a bettor to make it to the pay window this week the Chargers have to win by 15 to get paid. To win by 14 would constitute a tie, or as its known in Vegas, a push. No one wins and your money is free to bet elsewhere. Now the question is not if the Chargers will win but will they win by 15 or more. Quite a different question as opposed to the first three weeks. Let me consult my Magic 8-Ball…
All signs point to yes…
Let’s hope the Chargers don’t start thinking like the wiseguys. Yes, the Chargers should be able to blow the doors off the Jaguars and their newly appointed rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, but they should not look past them. Just because they’re supposed to slaughter the hapless Jaguars doesn’t mean they will. The Patriots needed a final minute goal line stand to beat the Raiders last week. The Patriots were 14-point favorites to beat Oakland last week and they barely squeaked by 16-9. No one gave Cleveland a shot against New Orleans in week two but the Browns got the win.
The Chargers are entering a nice stretch of games where they will encounter the Jaguars, New York Jets, Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs in succession before they have their first clash with Denver in Mile High Stadium. Even Vegas is likely to favor the Chargers until they meet Peyton and company. The Chargers need to focus squarely on each of these highly winnable games (the Raiders, Chiefs, Jets and Jaguars are a combined 2-10 heading into week four) and collect these wins as they will be significant in the push to win the AFC West and make the playoffs.
The wiseguys aren’t dummies however. Although the placing varies, Vegas has San Diego as one of the top eight favorites to win the Super Bowl not in the AFC but in the league at 20 to 1 odds (pay one dollar, win twenty in return) or better. Depending on the which bookmaker you pick, its up to 12-1 odds.
Vegas is welcome to be right on that one. As for me, I always bet on 17.
The Greg One