The NFL regular season starts in just under two months. The 2016 schedule has the Chargers facing the AFC South, NFC South, the Miami Dolphins (AFC East) and the Cleveland Browns (AFC North).
Below is a breakdown of their 2016 opponents.
Week 1: @Kansas City Chiefs
2015 Record: 11-5, 2nd AFC West
Offense: 27th overall
Defense: 7th overall
The Chiefs started 2015 slow, losing five straight games. They ended the season winning 10 straight and won their first playoff game in 20 years. The running game should be solid for the Chiefs in 2016. Jamaal Charles is coming back from an ACL injury. Along with his fellow running backs, Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West, KC sports one of the best backfields in the NFL.
Week 2: Jacksonville Jaguars
2015 Record: 5-11, 3rd AFC South
Offense: 18th overall
Defense: 24th overall
The Jaguars had a less than stellar season, placing third in the worst division in the NFL in 2015. Jacksonville only won one road game last year. The Jags took to the draft to help beef up their defense by signing defensive players with their first five picks, including DB Jalen Ramsey from Florida State and LB Myles Jack from UCLA.
Week 3: @Indianapolis Colts
2015 Record: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 28th overall
Defense: 26th overall
The Colts had a 3-5 record in the first half of the 2015 season, losing starting quarterback Andrew Luck in Week 8. Backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and journeyman signal caller Josh Freeman went 5-3 in the second half, but it still was not enough to win the division. If Andrew Luck can stay healthy in 2016, the Colts could make improvements on offense. They drafted a much-needed center, Ryan Kelly from Alabama, with the 18th pick overall.
Week 4: New Orleans Saints
2015 Record: 7-9, 3rd NFC South
Offense: 2nd overall
Defense: 31st overall
The Saints were a very lopsided team in 2015. Their offense averaged 403.8 yards and 25.5 points per game, but their defense allowed an average of 413.8 yards and 29.8 points per game. That is clearly not a recipe for success. The Saints should continue to have a stellar offense with veteran Drew Brees at quarterback.
Week 5: @Oakland Raiders
2015 Season: 7-9, 3rd AFC West
Offense: 24th overall
Defense: 22nd overall
The Raiders made some improvements last year in an attempt to have their first winning season since losing the Super Bowl in 2003, but fell short, again. Their 7-9 record was an improvement considering they have averaged only 4.9 wins a season in the last 13 years. The Raiders will probably continue to improve in 2016. They have a young team lead by third-year quarterback Derek Carr. Don’t sleep on the Raiders in 2016.
Week 6: Denver Broncos
2015 Season: 12-4, 1st AFC West
Offense: 16th overall
Defense: 1st overall
The Broncos won the division — again — for the fifth consecutive season and went on to win Super Bowl 50. Peyton Manning had his worst season, finishing with only nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 10 games. The stellar Broncos’ defense allowed an average of only 283.1 yards and 18.5 points per game. The Broncos are bringing back pretty much the same defense in 2016. The retirement of Manning brings veteran Mark Sanchez, back-up quarterback Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch fighting for the starting position. Rumor has it that Sanchez and Siemian are neck-and-neck in the fight to win the job.
Week 7: @Atlanta Falcons
2015 Season: 8-8, 2nd AFC South
Offense: 7th overall
Defense: 16th overall
The Falcons started out the 2015 season hot, winning six of their first eight games. The second half was the exact opposite, as they went 2-6. One of the two wins in the second half was against their division rival, and eventual Super Bowl runner-up, the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons drafted strong safety Keanu Neal from Florida with the 17th overall pick to boost their struggling defense.
Week 8: @Denver Broncos
See week six.
Week 9: Tennessee Titans
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC South
Offense: 30th overall
Defense: 12th overall
The Titans looked like a sleeper team in Week 1 of the 2015 season, when they won 42-14 against the Tampa Bay Bucs, led by 2nd overall pick, Marcus Mariota, who had 209 yards, four touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Despite Mariota’s success in Week 1, the Titans ended up with the worst record in 2015, averaging only 311.8 yards and 18.7 points per game. It will be hard to do much worse in 2016, but anything is possible.
Week 10: Miami Dolphins
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th AFC East
Offense: 26th overall
Defense: 25th overall
The Dolphins were led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who averaged 263 passing yards per game and had 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. While those numbers aren’t terrible, his offensive line could not keep him standing up, as he was sacked 45 times. The Titans could fare better in 2016 when it comes to sacks with the signing of offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: @Houston Texans
2015 Season: 9-7, 1st AFC South
Offense: 19th overall
Defense: 3rd overall
The Texans started the season off rocky, going 3-5 in the first half of the season but turned it around in the second half, only losing two games. The third ranked defense allowed only an average of 19.6 points for game and even had five games where their opponent only scored six points. The Texans liked what they saw when Brock Osweiler took over the quarterback duties for the Broncos and signed him to be their starter in 2016. This move could either make them or break them.
Week 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015 Season: 6-10, 4th NFC South
Offense: 5th overall
Defense: 10th overall
The Buccaneers should have had a better record in 2015 since they had a top-10 overall offense and defense. Stats don’t always show the big picture, especially considering their offense averaged 375.9 yards per game, but only 21.4 points per game. The defense allowed an average of 340.4 yards per and 26.4 points per game. The Bucs took to their coaching staff to bring change, naming Dirk Koetter as the new head coach, replacing Lovie Smith, along with Mike Smith as the new defensive coordinator and Todd Monken as the new offensive coordinator.
Week 14: @Carolina Panthers
2015 Season: 15-1, 1st NFC South
Offense: 11th overall
Defense: 6th overall
The Panthers had an explosive offense in 2015, leading the league with 500 total points and an average of 31.3 points per game. Their offense, lead by quarterback Cam Newton, was not able to fare well against the best defense in the league and lost the Super Bowl to the Broncos, scoring only 10 points. The Panthers will be without DB Charles Tillman, who recently announced his retirement after 13 years in the league. They signed former Chargers punter Mike Scifres to a one-year deal.
Week 15: Oakland Raiders
See week five.
Week 16: @ Cleveland Browns
2015 Season: 3-13, 4th AFC North
Offense: 25th overall
Defense: 27th overall
For the fourth straight year, the Browns were in last place in their division. The quarterback situation in Cleveland was their biggest downfall in 2015. The off-field antics of quarterback Johnny Manziel had the Browns switching the starting positions between the former first-round draft pick and Josh McCown. The Browns lost their best wide receiver, Travis Benjamin, to the Chargers during free agency. They went to the draft in hopes of replacing him, drafting five wide receivers, including Corey Coleman from Baylor with the 15th overall pick.
Week 17: Kansas City Chiefs
See week one.
The Chargers only face four teams with a winning record last year, but two of the four of those teams are the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs. They will face two teams with a .500 season and seven teams with a losing season in 2015, including the Oakland Raiders.
The schedule seems pretty easy — on paper — and I predict that they will definitely win more than four games this season. The Chargers play in a tough division and will need to win some of those games to be contenders in 2016.
Thanks for reading!
“Hope in one hand and shit in the other, see which one fills up first.” – Unknown
After losing six games in a row, the San Diego Chargers pulled off a much-needed win against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, taking the game by a score of 31-25.
Currently sitting with a record of 3-8, the Chargers’ playoff hopes are basically nonexistent. That being said, the AFC is very weak in 2015, and nothing would surprise me at this point.
Who am I kidding? I would be incredibly surprised if the Bolts have anything to play for following today’s game.
Many fans were disappointed with the team’s victory over the Jags because they were looking for the team to tank in hopes of securing a top-5 draft pick in 2016.
The Chargers face the Denver Broncos at home on Sunday. The Broncos are coming off of a big win against the New England Patriots in Week 12.
With Peyton Manning on the shelf due to plantar fasciitis, Brock Osweiler has taken over the starting role at quarterback. The Denver offense seems to be performing better now that Osweiler is the signal caller.
Although the Broncos’ offense seems to be clicking on all cylinders, with their running game finally adding to their arsenal, their defense boasts one of the best units in the NFL. Philip Rivers and company will have their work cut out for them, as the Broncos have playmakers at all three levels of the defense.
Things do not appear to be in the Chargers’ favor today, but these are the type of games the Bolts seem to do just enough to win; they play up to the competition of quality opponents, and down to the level of lesser teams.
Well, that’s enough with me rambling on, let’s get right to the point of this post.
Are you hoping for a Chargers’ win today? Or are you wanting the team to take that much-expected ‘L’, helping to move them closer to a better draft pick in ’16?
You know the drill; place your vote below and leave a comment justifying why you voted the way you did.
Thanks in advance for voting and commenting.
The good news is, to paraphrase the New York Yankees play-by-play announcer…
The Chargers WIN! The-e-e-e-e-e Char-Gers WINNNNN!!
The bad news is they’re still living single in the basement of the AFC West. With the Denver Broncos still winning games despite starting unproven quarterback Brock Osweiler in the place of the injured Peyton Manning. The AFC West and the playoffs are out of reach for the San Diego Chargers. The team is playing for pride and for their jobs at this point. If the road win against Jacksonville is any indication, they will continue to play hard with hopefully different results. The Chargers were one week shy of not winning a game in two months. That’s enough to damage the strongest psyche.
The question is, how is your fanhood these days, Boltfam?
Possibly the one thing worse than a team going on a prolonged losing streak is being a diehard fan of the team on the prolonged losing streak. At the end of the day, those guys still go home to their families, their mansions and multi-million dollar bank accounts. We, the fans, go home to our flats, apartments, homes, run-down cars and enough bills to choke all the bugs hidden inside the walls.
There’s been enough scuttlebutt surrounding the season as a whole with the stadium situation, relocation rumors, contract disputes and a season to forget, to top it all off. I’ve personally talked to many fans who have decided to tie their allegiance to another team. Others have become fed up and wish the Bolts would lose out in order to gain a top draft pick in hopes of getting better next season. Others, like myself, stay all-in win or lose, hoping that win streak begins this week.
No one is wrong.
We all have a point of no return. Some have reached it, some have not. A good metaphor would be the movie Titanic. In the movie, the band kept playing as the ship went down. For those who don’t know, the Titanic was a multi-ton luxury cruise ship that was the first of its kind that hit an iceberg and sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage.
This season, the Chargers are the Titanic. We the fans are symbolized by the ballroom full of people enjoying the band and socializing. The ship (the season) is sinking. The question is, do you abandon ship and look for the nearest life raft, or make like the band and go down with the ship?
Again, there is no wrong answer.
This season could drive any Chargers’ loyalist to drink, heavily. There are no easy wins when you’re a Bolts fan. There are no games where the outcome is favorably foretold by halftime. We must sweat through every minute of every game, waiting for those final moments when Philip Rivers can take a knee and run out the clock. Our sanity is tested week in and week out. San Diego has one of the most talented rosters in the league, yet this season they can’t seem to get out of their own way. Injuries, bad officiating, questionable playcalling and talent decisions have all contributed to undermining a promising season.
Personally, I’ve been invested in the Chargers since age seven, and this isn’t the first losing season I’ve endured. It is far from it. But, it does seem like the worst losing season, because as you get older, each season takes on more meaning. If you’re a young fan, now may be the time to grab a life raft and jump overboard before too many years of your life have been invested, eventually making turning back impossible.
I’m in the band. Always have been, always will be. Probably singing lead. Where do you find yourselves these days, Boltfam? Band or life raft?
The Greg One
The now 2-6 San Diego Chargers are living out the meaning of the old cliché “backs against the wall”. This week alone, star receiver Keenan Allen, Branden Oliver and Tourek Williams were all placed on season-ending injured reserve. Corey Liuget and Ladarius Green left Baltimore in walking boots after Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. Thirteen players were injured during the Ravens game alone. Only 46 are allowed to play on Sundays. The Chargers literally lost over 25% of their active team on Sunday.
The offensive line is in shambles. Quarterback Philip Rivers has been sacked 19 times. Now the league’s top passer is down his best receiver, an emerging tight end (Green) and a running back that gained eight yards per reception in Oliver.
The defense is not faring much better. Team Captain Eric Weddle and Manti Te’o have missed multiple weeks. Both were entrusted with the ‘green dot’ helmet that receives the play transmission for the defense. Now that helmet resides in the locker of linebacker Donald Butler. Recent losses include rookie Denzel Perryman (biceps) and now Liuget. Unable to get pressure on the quarterback, the Bolts have only managed 15 sacks and four interceptions. To make matters worse, they’re allowing 28.4 points per game.
Coming into San Diego for a Monday Night Football showdown will be Jay Cutler and the 2-5 Chicago Bears. Like San Diego, the Bears lost their greatest weapon last week when Matt Forte was lost for the game and will miss time with a knee injury. On paper, the Chargers are more talented and should beat the lowly Bears rather easily.
The same thing was said when they went to the east coast to face the then 1-6 Ravens.
If the Bolts win, that will put them at 3-6 with a slim but still possible chance of challenging for a wild card spot in the playoffs. A loss makes a third straight 9-7 season nearly out of reach and a .500 season a daunting task. That being said…
Is it time to start tanking for a high draft pick?
We all want to see the Chargers go on a long winning streak that finishes in the playoffs. Realistically, they are five games behind the still undefeated Denver Broncos. The Broncos have been woeful offensively but their defense has been unstoppable and the main reason they have been able to stay undefeated. The fact that they have played weak opponents all the way up to last week’s impressive win over the then undefeated Green Bay Packers didn’t hurt either. The AFC West title is effectively out of reach barring Peyton Manning going down with injury.
By the way, the Chargers play the Broncos twice in the last five weeks.
That leaves the possible wild card. As of today, San Diego finds themselves two games behind the 4-3 Oakland Raiders, the 4-4 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 4-3 New York Jets. They have already lost to both Pittsburgh and Oakland and it would take massive collapses by those teams to give San Diego a chance of getting one of those two wild card spots.
At this point, it’s time to empty the playbook. It’s time to use every untested player, dust off every odd formation, gadget play and blitz strategy in hopes of getting a spark that will carry into next season. Unfortunately, the Chargers are playing for pride. They have dug a hole too deep to extract themselves from. I want them to go on a 8-0 run to finish the season in the playoffs like the rest of you. In the part of our brain that is responsible for rational thought, we know it isn’t going to happen.
Should the Chargers tank the season? No.
Should the Chargers play fast, loose and with a nothing-to-lose mentality for the rest of the season? Yes.
Go for it on every fourth-and-one. Mix up the play calling. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment with Gordon (Get the man a fullback). Experiment with the passing game (Green at WR? Yes, please). Experiment with movement. Boots, waggles, and bubble screens to get Gordon in space would be a nice start. Replace all those inside handoffs with toss sweeps to get the backs to the edge quicker. Go deep more. A LOT more. If you’re gonna go down, go down swinging.
At this point, the game with the Bears is the season. If the Bolts win, they maintain course as long as they continue to win. If they lose, time to blow up the formula, wing it and play for draft position. Get a top blue-chip prospect who can help the team immediately before Rivers’ window is closed forever. The top-ten picks are where game-changing, franchise-changing players can be found.
Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston, Oakland’s Amari Cooper, St. Louis’ Todd Gurley all have their respective teams on a trajectory to finish with a higher win total than last season. All were top-ten picks. The Chargers hope to have found the same fortune with Gordon but they had to trade up to 15th to get him, sacrificing a needed draft pick along the way. The jury is still out on Gordon, seeing as he only surpassed 100 carries for the season in the Ravens game.
San Diego needs a change of fortune and philosophy to get this uber-talented team over the top. As sad as it sounds, it’s going to take a step back, a change in coaching philosophy and a wise top-ten pick to finally move forward.
What do you think? Should the Chargers tank for a high-draft seeding? Leave your comments below.
The Greg One
It is looking like the desperate-times-call-for-desperate-measures scenario has arrived in San Diego this past Sunday.
The most-hated division rival, the Oakland Raiders and their fans, first took over Qualcomm Stadium, and then proceeded to deliver a knock-out punch to the Chargers that had not been seen in, well, maybe forever.
What ever game plan Mike McCoy and Frank Reich had in place, it went sideways very quickly.
How could that happen?!
The team was wearing its powder blue jerseys and, as superstition goes, that beat-down should not have happened!
What I and many other Bolts fans, witnessed, whether at the stadium or watching on television, was a thorough implosion.
I am not going to rehash this too much, it still makes me sick to think about the situation as a whole.
Mike McCoy became the Chargers head coach on January 25, 2013. He was 40 years old then, and the youngest head coach in the NFL.
At one of his initial interviews, after being named Norv Turner’s replacement, McCoy stated that he planned to hire an offensive coordinator.
Perhaps that seemed unusual since it was one of the reasons why he was being pursued. After all, this is the guy who everyone knew had worked with Tim Tebow, helping him to change his mechanics, ultimately leading the Broncos to a playoff win with the now-unemployed quarterback at the helm.
Let us not forget that under McCoy and former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt managed to help Philip Rivers get his mojo back after he appeared to be losing his touch.
What transpired that year for Rivers was him being named “NFL Comeback Player of the Year” in 2013; a distinction that the signal caller did not quite understand as he had not missed a game since becoming the starter in 2006.
Former offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos from 2008 until 2012, McCoy began his tenure there with journeyman quarterback Kyle Orton. Under McCoy’s direction, Denver’s offense ranked seventh in passing and Orton was fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game in 2010.
McCoy revamped the offense for Tebow in 2011 by inserting more running plays into the game plan. The former Heisman Trophy winner (2007, the first to win as a sophomore) responded by rushing for 660 yards and scoring six touchdowns. At the end of the season, he had a passer rating of 72.5, based on an attempt/completion record of 126/271 (46.5%), seven TDs and was picked off once. Tebow led Denver to six straight wins and the team went into the postseason having won seven of their last eight games.
And then along came Peyton Manning in 2012.
McCoy and the playbook evolved once more to accommodate Manning’s potent hurry-up offense. With “The Sheriff” as their leader, the Broncos had a 13-3 record in spite of a 2-3 start. They won their second consecutive AFC West title, a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs. McCoy and Manning were defeated in double-overtime by the Baltimore Ravens, who went on to win the Super Bowl. Offensively, the team ranked fourth in total offense, fifth in passing offense and 16th in rushing. Manning was ranked sixth with a completion percentage of 68.6, a TD/INT ratio of 37/11 and threw for 4,659 yards on 583 attempts.
That same year, Rivers ranked No. 17 among QBs. He was 338 out of 527 for 3,606 yards (64.1%), had 26 passing scores with 15 picks. The Bolts were in the bottom offensively: 31st in total offense, No. 24 in passing and 27th in rushing.
Ironically, the 2015 season to date reflects a curiously unusual status between the two competitors and their teams: both have flip-flopped in most categories other than the penultimate: wins and losses.
Manning’s Broncos are 6-0 while Rivers and the Chargers are sitting at 2-5. Through the first seven games (Denver was on bye last week) the statistics look like this: San Diego is first in total offense with 430.7 yards per game versus 325.8 and the 29th slot for Denver. The Bolts also have first place honors in passing offense (343.6), while the Broncos are 18th (240.8). Both AFC West rivals rank in the bottom in rushing, back-to-back in fact. San Diego is 29th (87.1) with Denver at 30th (85).
As for the signal callers themselves?
Rivers is first in the NFL with 2,452 yards, adding TD/INT ratio of 15/7. Where is Manning? Well, his 1,524 yards, seven TDs and 10 INTs put him in 17th place.
There are many people who are trying to figure out why the future Hall of Famer is in such a predicament. Is it the new head coach, Elway’s old friend and teammate Gary Kubiak, who is also calling the plays this year who should be to blame?
I don’t think I heard “Omaha” when I watched the Broncos-Chiefs game.
Adam Gase, the offensive guru in Denver for the last little stretch, followed previous Broncos coach John Fox to Chicago. Or is the health and age of good ol’ boy no. 18 in the navy and orange truly declining? I mean, after all, Peyton is 39 years old. He’s been playing football for a long time!
Perhaps the bottom line is that McCoy is a better offensive coordinator than head coach. Maybe for now the short-term fix is for him to start carrying around a sheet, a couple of markers and starts calling the plays himself.
This might relegate Reich to QB coach again, essentially, but if that is what it takes to win, so be it. This team is better than its record reflects; there are many men on the roster who are fighters and can help lead this group on its course. We the fans need more than the same-old, same-old that McCoy reiterates each week because not only is that old news, it just truly sets my teeth on edge.
Whatever “it” may be, this pretty much says it all: “We got outplayed and outcoached in the first half,” McCoy said. “It’s very difficult to have success when you start the game like we did, whether it’s turnovers or giving up seven straight scores. That starts with me as the head coach. We’re not going to sit around and dwell on this.”
Yeah, we know, Coach. What we want to know is: what are you going to do about it?
Thanks for reading!
This offseason there was discussion about the very scary potential of Philip Rivers leaving the San Diego Chargers via trade during the NFL draft. There was speculation that the team, after flying out a good number of the offensive staff and front office to Eugene, OR to workout incoming rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota, would possibly deal Rivers for the Tennessee Titans’ first-round pick (No. 2 selection overall).
Obviously, that talk is now far off in the rearview mirror, as Rivers was not traded and he was signed to a lucrative contract extension with the Chargers.
Now we’re talking about the potential idea that Philip will run away with the MVP trophy by the season’s end (Most Valuable Player).
Thus far throughout the 2015 season, Rivers has thrown for 2,116 yards, tossing 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. His completion percentage is at 70.0%. He currently leads the NFL in passing yards. Andy Dalton sits behind him in second place with 1,761 passing yards.
It is amazing that ever since he was trusted with the starting quarterback position, Rivers has not missed any action. The 33-year-old has 150 consecutive starts, putting his toughness and sheer desire to win on display each and every Sunday.
Did I forget to mention the offensive line?
Oh, man. They have been quite the project ever since Kris Dielman was lost to injury along with Marcus McNeil. Just this offseason, Rivers lost his center of 11 years, Nick Hardwick. The revolving door at the center spot in 2014 was widely covered by the staff here at BoltBlitz and many other media outlets, as well. This season has begun no different, as the team has played 12 different configurations along the offensive line.
But did that provide a hindrance to Philip’s stats?
Sure, the offense has been transformed into a short, quick passing game, getting the ball out of his hand faster than when under the former offensive coaching regime.
The fact that Rivers breaks a few records here and there, puts on amazing performances, makes unbelievable throws (in a good way), takes massive beatings behind a patchwork offensive line that is still a work in progress and still continues to have his consecutive starts train rolling is just amazing.
I think it’s great for a guy like Rivers — who is still heavily disrespected by incompetent football fans — to be putting up the numbers he has in recent years due to so many factors that would make it seem unlikely for him to do so.
So the question remains.
Is Philip Rivers in the running for MVP?
Well, let me ask you this: if the award was given out today, who deserves it more than San Diego’s No. 17?
Precisely. No one deserves it more than Philip Rivers.
The major thing standing in the way of Rivers continuing down the MVP track is the fact that the team has a record of 2-4. They clearly need to turn it around to keep him in the running for an award that he is certainly deserving of at this point.
Before I end it here, I want to mention that he is also on pace to break two records. Peyton Manning’s record of 5,477 yards is in jeopardy of being broken by Rivers. He is on track to eclipse that by over 100 yards. Another record he can possibly break is Drew Brees’ completions record (468).
I honestly believe that those two records will be shattered by him. I have no doubt about it, and hopefully I’ll see it in person myself down the stretch!
– Richie Farley
Every year, fans of all 32 teams view their club’s chances of success through rose-colored glasses.
Hope is free. Fantasy is free. Reality is a brutal heart punch from Bruce Lee.
Only one will live to tell the tale of winning the Holy Grail, the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy.
In Bolt Nation, we all know the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. No logical fan is projecting the Chargers to win the Super Bowl. Win the AFC West? That’s a different story altogether.
The Denver Broncos dominance over the AFC West has coincided with the 2012 arrival of then free agent quarterback Peyton Manning. During their current four-year reign as kings of the AFC West, Manning has been at the helm for the last three AFC West pennants. Now entering his 18th NFL season, Manning and the Broncos are looking to keep their division stranglehold intact.
Easier said than done.
Last season, cracks began to show in the Broncos’ armor. Losses on both side of the ball took a toll and the 12-4 Broncos weren’t able to take advantage of their second seeding in the conference. Denver lost in the divisional round of the playoffs to Indianapolis. Despite the proficiency of the Manning-led passing attack, the Broncos were only able to muster 13 points at home in the loss.
Now more than ever, the pendulum looks to be swinging in the Chargers’ favor in their quest to take back the AFC West.
Consider these key factors:
Peyton Manning vs. Philip Rivers: What’s not to like about two old school gunslingers standing toe-to-toe and letting their arms do the talking? This has been one of the best (and most underrated) quarterback duels in the NFL. Manning entered the league five seasons before Rivers, who didn’t take over the reins of the Chargers until year three of his pro career.
Rivers was the understudy to Drew Brees for two seasons before Brees left for New Orleans. In reality, the two have been facing each other as starting quarterbacks for ten seasons when this season begins.
The difference is starting to show.
Last season, the whispers of Manning’s deteriorating arm strength became roars as the Broncos finished the season. In the last eight games including their playoff loss, Manning threw 11 touchdowns including three games where he only threw one touchdown and two games where he did not throw a touchdown at all. Eight interceptions during that stretch of games also fed into speculation of his decline in accuracy, long a Manning trademark. Last season’s fifteen interceptions were the most Peyton has thrown as a Bronco.
In an odd bit of symmetry between the two rivals, both quarterbacks had potential MVP caliber seasons curtailed by injuries they played through. Manning suffered a quadriceps injury and Rivers had undisclosed back and rib injuries. Rivers is now healthy and armed with a new contract extension that will allow him to retire as a Charger. Manning decided to return after long offseason deliberation as his retirement from the game looks imminent. Rumors of the Broncos and Houston Texans discussing a trade of Manning leaked during the offseason. Eventually, this was dismissed as a simple ‘inquiry’ on the part of the Texans.
Rivers is in the prime of his career and the Chargers are all-in on surrounding him with enough talent to earn the veteran signal caller a Super Bowl ring. Now in the third year of the McCoy-Telesco regime, the Chargers have had back-to-back 9-7 seasons. Choosing to rebuild with youth, only one-third of the current roster (including practice squad) is over the age of 27 years old. The Broncos are also all-in on Manning, but chose to make their push by bringing in big name free agents. DE Demarcus Ware, CBs Aqib Talib and Quentin Jammer, S T.J. Ward, and WRs Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker were all Manning-era signings.
Denver backfield vs. San Diego backfield: The Broncos will rely heavily on the legs of C.J. Anderson. Anderson emerged as the go-to back during the season, making the final seven starts. Leading the Broncos with 849 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in 2014, Anderson is also a threat receiving the ball. Last season he had 34 receptions for 324 yards and two touchdowns. There isn’t much behind Anderson, now entering his third season out of California. Last season’s starting running back, Montee Ball, was cut by the Broncos. SDSU alum Ronnie Hillman is the only veteran rusher on the roster right now. At 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, Hillman is not capable of being the every down back the Broncos expect Anderson to be.
Expectations for San Diego’s number one draft pick Melvin Gordon are high. The rookie didn’t even have two dozen carries in the preseason. Still, Gordon has earned the confidence of the coaches and veteran players throughout training camp and preseason. While Gordon is expected to assume an every-down role at some point, it has been made clear by the coaches the Chargers will have a running-back-by-committee approach. Danny Woodhead will contribute as a pass-catching, third-down specialist out of the backfield and Branden Oliver will be a change-of-pace back. Donald Brown is a depth player who has been an every-down back in the past.
Denver receivers vs. San Diego receivers: Denver features one of the top-five receivers in the league in speedster Demaryius Thomas. On the opposite side, Emmanuel Sanders will start and Andre Caldwell would be first off the bench in a three-receiver set. Behind them, second-year pro Cody Latimer will be looking to breakout this season.
San Diego will feature third-year pro Keenan Allen, who will be looking to bounce back from what was a down year by his standards. Allen had 77 receptions for 783 yards and four touchdowns, down from his rookie season where he topped 1000 yards with eight touchdowns on 71 catches. Ten-year veteran Malcom Floyd will look to go out with a bang after announcing he will retire after this season. The Chargers brought in Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones to fill in the void left by Eddie Royal in the slot and in the return game, respectively.
Denver pass rush vs. San Diego pass rush: Denver has one of the league’s most intimidating tandems of edge rushers in defensive ends Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. The bookends combined for 24 of Denver’s 41 sacks last season. Containing them is will be the focus of every offensive coordinator.
Whereas the Broncos depends on a pair of elite veteran pass rushers, the Chargers will look to young pass rushers to hurry Manning and other opposing signal callers. Melvin Ingram, Jerry Attaochu, Corey Liuget and rookie Kyle Emanuel will lead the charge to get the future Hall-Of-Famer sacked or throwing incompletions. San Diego finished near the bottom of the NFL with 26 sacks last season and the top Charger sacker was Liuget with 4.5.
Denver secondary vs. San Diego secondary: The Denver Broncos have what could be considered a top-five starting cornerback duo in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Both have the ability to shut down opposing receivers due to their solid coverage. Talib is one of the more physical corners in the NFL, while Harris can run with the best, showcasing strong ball skills and fluid hips.
After re-signing Brandon Flowers this offseason, the Chargers also have a top-five cornerback duo with him and Jason Verrett. The second-year Verrett is among one of the more exciting defenders at his position in the game. Many around the NFL believe that, if healthy, this will be a breakout season for the former Horned Frog. It doesn’t hurt the Bolts that they also have the best free safety in the league, Eric Weddle.
Now, more so than any season since the AFC West arrival of Peyton Manning, the Chargers are ready and more than capable of reclaiming the top spot. The Broncos have the advantage on defense, but the Chargers have a significant edge on offense. A home split is the most probable outcome.
What do you think? Will the Chargers catch the Broncos this season?
The Greg One
On Saturday night, quarterback Philip Rivers agreed to a four-year contract extension with the San Diego Chargers that will keep him in lightning bolts through the year 2019. The deal is between $84-85 million dollars and comes with $65 million guaranteed dollars per NFL Networks’ Ian Rapoport who broke the story. Rivers will sign the extension on Monday.
The Chargers front office has taken a lot of fire this offseason for how they have handled player contracts this offseason. They stepped up to the plate and guaranteed Rivers will be a Charger for life as GM Tom Telesco has said in countless interviews. The exclamation point is the guaranteed money. The $65 million is the largest guaranteed dollar amount given to a player in NFL history. The deal surpasses the $61.5 million that was guaranteed to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson just a month ago.
This is a lightning bolt of great news that has energized the San Diego fan base if you peruse social media. Despite what happens in the relocation scenario, the elephant in the room was Rivers, who was in the last year of his current contract this season. The subject of trade speculation in the weeks leading up to the draft, Rivers spoke hesitantly about his willingness to resign if the Chargers move to Los Angeles. Thankfully, that game is over and the franchise quarterback will stay put until the day he decides to hang up his cleats.
Though it remains to be seen how the new members of the offensive line perform, Rivers had to be impressed in the guys the front office brought in to protect him. Orlando Franklin (6’7″, 320 lb) is a left guard the Chargers signed away from the rival Denver Broncos. Joe Barksdale (6’5″, 326 lb) is a right tackle signed away from St. Louis. The pair of 27-year old studs solidify weak spots on both sides of the line.
The signings of reserve center Trevor Robinson (6’5″, 300 lb), guard Michael Huey (6’4″, 317 lb) and tackle Chris Hairston (6’6″, 330 lb) provide quality depth to a line that resembles a turnstile last season. This group will be tasked with keeping Rivers clean and opening holes for the running backs. At first look, they look very capable of doing so.
With Rivers solidly back in the fold, they are primed to overtake the Denver Broncos and reclaim their former dominance at the top of the AFC West. They’re bound to experience growing pains with new workhorse running back Melvin Gordon. Much is expected of the Chargers 2015 first round draft pick but his transition to the pro game will be a little easier with a stable of veterans to lean on. A healthy Danny Woodhead and human bowling ball Branden Oliver will also take pressure off as they will share the backfield load, turning the running back position into a three-headed monster.
This deal was inevitable. Rivers is undoubtedly the heart and soul of the team. He is the undisputed leader and face of the franchise. Rivers’ intelligence, toughness and passing proficiency is unquestioned. At this moment, Rivers is the sixth highest rated passer in NFL history. By the end of his career, Rivers will own every significant Chargers passing record.
Will San Diego win the West this year? If they stay healthy (big if), they can absolutely overtake the Broncos. At the very least the race for the top spot should go down to the wire. I expect at least ten wins this season which puts them in the playoff picture. Rivers has his best collection of offensive talent top to bottom since the Tomlinson years.
Peyton Manning is already declining and will most likely retire at the end of this or next season. Rivers still has plenty of life left in his arm and we long suffering bolts fans can finally realistically expect deep postseason runs culminating with a long overdue Super Bowl ring(s) for our MVP!
Congratulations Philip from all of us in Bolt Nation!
The Greg One
The San Diego Chargers look to improve a defense that ranked 10th in total defense (4th vs. pass, 26th vs. run). Of the Chargers’ five draft picks, four were made on defense. Today we’ll take a look at the cornerback position and how the Bolts will look to improve on a pass defense that received little support in the form of a pass rush from the front-seven. Here’s a look at who the Chargers have in camp at the present time:
Brandon Flowers: The 29-year-old made an instant impact after he signed last offseason after being released by Kansas City in a cost-cutting move. He made the most of his one-year ‘prove it’ contract, and re-signed with the Chargers on a four-year, $36 million deal.
According to Pro Football Focus, Flowers was the number one cornerback in the NFL for the first eight weeks of the season before he missed games with numerous injuries including concussion, groin and ankle maladies. He managed to perform in 14 of the Chargers 16 games despite being banged up, recording 52 tackles (48 solo), three interceptions and 10 passes defensed. Now entering his eighth season, Flowers looks forward to continuing his ‘big brother’ role to the Bolts’ young group of cornerbacks.
Jason Verrett: The 2014 first-round draft pick was having an excellent season opposite Flowers until his year was cut short by a torn labrum in week six. The resilient rookie tried to return in week eight against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, but only succeeded in aggravating the injury. The Chargers placed him on IR after week 10.
Flowers and Verrett ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Pro Football Focus cornerback ratings while they played together. Losing both, at times, forced others to step up and fill some “large shoes.” Verrett compiled 19 tackles (18 solo), one dramatic, game-saving, late fourth quarter interception versus Oakland and four passes defensed in six games. A healthy Verrett is going to greatly improve the secondary and he is most likely to man the right corner position opposite Flowers.
Patrick Robinson: A 2010 first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints, Patrick Robinson signed a one-year contract with San Diego in March. In five seasons, he’s logged 180 tackles (150 solo), one sack, nine interceptions with one forced fumble and 46 passes defensed. Robinson bounced back strong in 2014 after rupturing his patellar tendon in week 2 and missing the rest of the 2013 season.
Last season, Robinson defensed 11 passes with two interceptions and 39 tackles. Robinson also found his way into New Orleans head coach Sean Paytons’ doghouse as he was benched repeatedly. Hopefully, his tenure in San Diego can mirror the second chance Brandon Flowers received. He will be the leading candidate for the number three cornerback in the rotation at this point. It is worth noting that after struggling on the outside, he picked up his play once given the opportunity to play the nickel-spot in the New Orleans’ defense. Robinson may end up be a sleeper signing for the Charger defense.
Steve Williams: Looking to get his career on track, Williams finally found the field in 2014 after missing all of the 2013 season with a pectoral injury. He played in 13 games, recording 10 tackles with two passes defensed. Drafted by the Chargers alongside his college teammate Keenan Allen, the Cal Bear got onto the Chargers radar after exhibiting freakish athleticism at the combine with 4.25 speed in the 40, 10’8″ broad jump and 40.5 inch vertical jump. The Chargers still hold out hope that their 2013 fifth-round choice can fully apply his skills and stay on the field. He should see an opportunity to compete with Robinson for the nickel role, and continue to see snaps on special teams. His speed makes him an asset on both defense and special teams.
Chris Davis: Entering his second year out of Auburn, Davis played in 12 games for the Chargers, contributing mostly on special teams. The team found value in Davis in the kickoff return game, where he averaged 25.1 yards on 19 returns. After assuming those duties in the November 2nd Dolphins’ game, Davis may have found his role as the team’s return specialist. Known for what will arguably stand as the greatest return in college football history in the 2013 Iron Bowl, Davis looks to repeat his success in San Diego while also playing more on defense. Davis has shown flashes of playmaking capability, and he can be an important piece to a championship team if he can sustain his health and continue to improve in 2015.
Craig Mager: When the team’s 2015 third-round draft pick name was announced on day two of the draft, it came with a collective chorus of “Craig Who” on social media and team message boards. But fans, and the league, will soon know his name. The Chargers are very high on the Texas State cornerback. At the combine, Mager ran a 4.44 in the 40, broad-jumped 10’10” and had a 38-inch vertical jump. Mager developed a reputation as an aggressive tackler in the secondary while in college, as he was named to the second team All-Sun Belt Conference for 2014. If he can adjust to the immense jump in talent from a mid-major conference in college football to the elite level of the NFL, Mager will pay dividends sooner rather than later.
Richard Crawford: A new face that will be ready for action, Oceanside native Richard Crawford is a third-year pro. Originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft, Crawford had a successful season culminating with an interception of Tony Romo in week 17; one that clinched the Redskins a playoff spot. His momentum came to an abrupt halt, as he suffered ACL and LCL injuries in the 2013 preseason that caused him to miss the entire season.
Crawford was eventually cut by the Redskins, and then added to the Chargers’ practice squad in week nine of last season. In his one season in Washington, Crawford recorded 18 tackles (13 solo), two passes defensed, one fumble recovery, one interception and also contributed on special teams. His 64-yard punt return against Baltimore secured the field position needed to kick a game-winning field goal. As a result, the ‘Skins got the overtime win over their in-state rival. Crawford will provide healthy competition for cornerback and punt return duties.
Greg Ducre: Still looking to make an impact, Ducre is a second-year pro out of Washington. Last season, Ducre signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. He was signed off the practice squad by the Washington Redskins. In a two-month span, he played one regular season game and was then released by Washington the next day. The Chargers then re-signed Ducre to the active roster where he has remained ever since.
Ducre adds a much-needed speed element to the Chargers secondary. At Washington’s pro day, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.32 and 4.34 seconds. He recorded a 35-inch vertical jump and 10’6″ broad jump. In the one game he played for Washington against San Francisco, he recorded an interception of Colin Kaepernick. His athleticism speaks for itself. But can he do it if called upon to do so in San Diego? Ducre faces an uphill battle to find his way onto the roster.
Manuel Asprilla: The undrafted free agent out of Boston College did not miss a game after getting to play three games into his freshman season at BC. A tackling machine, gathering 201 tackles (142 solo) and 15 tackles for loss. Asprilla had four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 23 passes defensed over his collegiate career. It will be a long shot for Asprilla to make the 53-man roster, but the Chargers have a long history of finding undrafted free agent gems. Practice squad is always a possibility.
This crop of cornerbacks has a boom-or-bust feel to them. If Flowers and Verrett can stay healthy all season, they can again be an upper top-10 tandem that could give the Chargers a legitimate top-10 defense. With a year of experience in the system, it stands to reason, that both will be even better than last season. San Diego missed the playoffs by one game last season. That tandem could have made up that one game.
Robinson was a great signing and will contribute right away. The rest of the field are all athletic freaks with speed to burn and off-the-charts leaping ability. When you consider the fact the Bolts don’t have a single member of the secondary that stands six-feet-tall or better, physically gifted athletes are a necessity when you look around the league at the tall, fast wideouts in the league now.
This is a group that will be charged with facing the best receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson, in week one. In week two, they will have to cover A. J. Green. They stand 6’5″ and 6’4″ and run 4.35 & 4.5 respectively. Add in a double shot of Demaryius Thomas, plus Jordy Nelson (both 6’3″), and it’s easy to see the Chargers’ secondary will be tested all season. Paired with Eric Weddle and the group of safeties he leads, the Bolts will boast a formidable secondary; if they can stay healthy and improve on their woeful takeaway totals (seven interceptions, one safety, 11 fumble recoveries).
This is a group that is full of promise, but can they deliver? What do you think Bolt Nation?
The Greg One
It’s that time of year again. Yes, we know it’s time for the draft in less than 36 hours. What I’m referring to is what has become a yearly tradition since year one of BoltBlitz, my annual Oakland Raiders mock draft. For the uninitiated, refer to the BoltBlitz archives for the previous editions. There’s always no time like the present to lay the beatdown on the Raiders. Even with a high draft pick every year, they will find a way to screw it up. I take all the guesswork out for the Raiders and make their picks for them.
Miley Cyrus, running back
One hot mess deserves another. Ms. Miley is already Raiders ready looks-wise. Mohawk? Check. Attitude-wise she is spoiled, entitled and about five more years from a Behind-The-Music special. Sounds like the Raiders front office. She instantly makes an impact on offense as a tailback. She can distract the defense with her high pitched caterwauling or she can teach the offensive line to twerk in hopes of gaining yardage because the opposing defense is on the ground, holding their sides in laughter. Just win, baby.
The Kool-Aid Man, fullback
Picture the scene at the podium as the Commissioner reads the pick. As he scans the room, you can all of a sudden feel a rumbling both audible and vibrating underneath your feet. As the tension reaches its nadir, the Kool-Aid Man bursts through the NFL Draft backdrop yelling his trademark OH YEAH. The 6’6, 300 lb. specimen is so elated he can’t control the cherry flavored juice spilling out of his dome, ruining the Commissioners suit. The hard part is going to be finding a set of pads that will prevent breakage but the Raiders feel he will be invaluable in short yardage and goal-line situations.
The Raiders picked a punter in the first round in 2000. That makes it evident that no one in the building is safe when the Raiders are on the clock, including the Commissioner. At 56, the Commissioner seems to be a bit old to be playing professional football to which a Raiders staffer replied ‘Look at Brandon Weeden, that guy is two years away from a mid-life crisis.’ Touche. They make a good point. Weeden does have a bald spot you could land the Space Shuttle on but Weeden is not on trial here. By securing Goodell, the Raiders aim to use his powers to swing games into their favor by issuing arbitrary rules during the game. I.E. ‘Andrew Luck is not allowed to pass in the fourth quarter.’ If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. It’s the Raider way.
Sources confirmed that the only thing more shocking than reading his own name on the Raiders draft card was the fact they took until the third round to pick him. ‘I’m already your best offensive player’, Goodell was overheard saying over a mic that was still hot. The above picture documents he offered a dollar on the spot to any rookie in the room to take his place on the Raiders roster. No one accepted.
Emmet, Wide Receiver
Just one name like Madonna, Cher or Prince. Emmet. Emmet can catch anything thrown his way and never fumble with his specialized kung-fu grip. (Now, to get the Commissioner to pass three inch footballs on gameday…) Emmett serves another just as important task as he automatically becomes the one person capable of building the Raiders a stadium! Everything is Awesooooome!
Doctor Octopus, Quarterback
The Raiders break their arms patting themselves on the back when they select Doctor Octopus to be their quarterback of the future. Said a Raider executive, ‘The man has six arms! We could score 42 points on one play! Wheeeeeeeeee!!!’ That quote says two things: the Raiders still can’t do math but maybe they have a point. If he can beat Spider Man he should be able to beat Peyton Manning.
Phil Jackson, Coach
The Raiders continue to push the envelope now by drafting people from other sports as they welcome former Lakers and Bulls head coach Phil Jackson. No one in football seems to want to coach the Raiders so why not basketball? Jackson has eleven rings and would be the perfect man to restore ‘The greatness of the Raiders.’ That’s if the Raiders played basketball. Good luck running the Triangle offense on a football field…
Russell Westbrooks’ wardrobe
Two words. Alternate uniforms.
If the players on the field aren’t distracting enough, a blinding new uniform should stun everyone’s eyeballs long enough to ensure easy touchdowns. As long as the Raiders are wearing the uniforms, they don’t have to look at them. Genius.
There you have it. Seven picks that will pan out better than what the Raiders will actually pick during draft weekend. Rest in pieces you face-painted, spike wearing, parking lot jumping, Darth Vader wannabes.
The Greg One