The 2014 season finished in what can be accurately described as “disappointing” for the Chargers. The team started 6-1, were No. 1 and on top of multiple power rankings to start the season. Philip Rivers was getting consideration for the league’s Most Valuable Player and they were being thrown around as a possible Superbowl team.
Then, injuries happened.
Danny Woodhead broke his leg. DJ Fluker played through half the year on a hurt ankle. Ryan Mathews played in six games. Keenan Allen missed the last two games with a broken collarbone. Rivers played with a back injury that limited his ability to throw and move. It goes without saying the playing five different centers makes it difficult to build cohesion on the offensive line.
As you can tell, the Chargers played beat up and with a lot of back ups and third stringers. But they finished the season 9-7, and one game shy of the playoffs.
Just how good are the Chargers when healthy?
As everyone knows, the Bolts added some playmakers this season. They upgraded many areas of their team and they are also coming off a very disappointing, yet not terrible season. The offseason has been a disaster, however, from the talks of relocating to Los Angeles, to Eric Weddle not being extended which then lead to a brief holdout and then the biggest bomb of them all, future Hall of Fame tight end Antonio Gates being suspended for Performance Enhancing Drugs.
So why the optimism?
Well, the Chargers are good. REALLY good. Tom Telesco has altered the o-line as one of the best in the AFC, gave Rivers another weapon in Stevie Johnson, got more physical defensively with the signing of Patrick Robinson and Jimmy Wilson and made the return game something teams fear with the signing of Jacoby Jones.
Is it enough?
The schedule this season is very favorable. Early on in the year is the toughest stretch, with games in Cincinnati, Minnesota and Green Bay and games at home vs Pittsburgh and Detroit. I mention these five games because they seem to bring the toughest competition to the Bolts.
Early in the season, it is not that big of a deal to drop a game or two to a team of that caliber. Win two of those five and you’re set up perfectly for the stretch run. The notable games after the bye week (week 10): Home/away versus the Chiefs, home/away versus the Broncos and home against the Dolphins. These are very winnable games and with the depth and offensive line that Telesco has provided, the Chargers should be able to compete and win at least three of these five games mentioned.
That leaves you at 5-5 through the toughest stretches of the schedule. The remaining games are at home versus the Browns, Raiders, Bears and on the road against Raiders, Ravens and Jaguars. Five of the six just named are extremely winnable with the Baltimore game being winnable, but a difficult game, nonetheless (and Chargers have experience winning there as they did it this past season). That leaves the Chargers final record at 10-6 or 11-5 and should be enough for a wild card berth and a potential AFC West division title.
The key to the playoffs is health (also, having an elite QB in Philip Rivers doesn’t hurt either) and the Chargers have depth, but will they stay healthy? Head coach Mike McCoy has been doing a great job trying to keep everyone healthy during training camp. That won’t change during the regular season.
On paper, this is the most talented team the Chargers have had since 2009 where the Bolts went 13-3 and snatched up the second seed in their conference. The AFC doesn’t seem to have that one Superbowl favorite team that you know will dominate the conference. It is wide-open, and the way Telesco has built this roster, the Chargers very well could end the year in Santa Clara playing in Superbowl 50.
Do you think the Chargers have what it takes to reach the Super Bowl? Let me know in the comments!
At the beginning of the season, everyone knew that the Chargers had one of the toughest schedules and had match-ups with some of the league’s top teams. The combined coaching record of the Chargers opponents (not including the Oakland Raiders due to coaching changes) has a record of 543-344, five Super Bowl wins, and nine Super Bowl appearances. The Harbaugh Brothers alone, John and Jim, have 114 of those wins. Most recently, John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl title over his brother’s team, San Francisco 49ers, just two seasons ago; labeling it the Harbaugh Bowl. If I had told you in September that the Chargers were to sweep the Harbaugh Brothers this season, you probably would have laughed. Turns out, they pulled off the unthinkable.
It all started when San Diego marched into Baltimore and defeated the Ravens on their own turf; something that has never been accomplished by any west coast team. After a miraculous win, the Chargers hit a two-game losing streak at home against the New England Patriots and division rivals, the Denver Broncos. Even after an eventful win in Baltimore, the Chargers found themselves needing another win in week 16 against the San Francisco 49ers to keep their playoff dreams alive.
After a 21 point rally, the Chargers defeated Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers in a Saturday Night Football thriller in Santa Clara. No one crashed and burned as bad as the 49ers did that night; at least in a while. Can we say the NFL’s top 5 games of the year? In that moment, almost speechless from the incredible overtime win, I realized the Chargers defeated and swept the infamous Harbaugh Brothers in a single season. That’s right, it hasn’t ever been done before. For the record, the Chargers also defeated the Manning Brothers, Eli and Peyton, last year in similar fashion. Somehow, the football God’s spoke on Sunday and the much-needed Ravens loss occurred; leaving the Chargers in control of their own destiny. As Quincy, a long time Charger fan would say, “yeah dat”.
When it comes to the San Diego Chargers, they seem to always accomplish the improbable every season; giving Chargers fans constant anxiety attacks. I forgot to mention that I woke up Sunday morning with no fingernails left and parts of my hair ripped out. Almost everyone, including some Charger fans, doubted the team when they traveled to Baltimore. There wasn’t much difference in Santa Clara this time either. Someone, please let the NFL know that the Chargers are making their distinctive December run and that all future Chargers opponents should take caution.
The Harbaugh Brothers have had some great success as head coaches in the NFL, but Philip Rivers and the Chargers have something on them no other team has; the Harbaugh Sweep. Something about it just brings music to my ears. I almost want to hashtag it and start a social media trend. Moving on, the season isn’t over just yet and the playoffs look closer than ever. However, if the Chargers season were to end next Sunday, there is plenty to look back on. This season, history was made, records were broken, and of course there was the Harbaugh sweep.
History shows that the Chargers do not perform well in the month of November. Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons; warm to chilly air, or maybe the injuries tend to catch up and cripple them. Since 2006, Philip Rivers has played all sixteen games every season, leading the team to great accomplishments, playoff appearances and impressive numbers, yet there always seems to be a trend; a sub par record in November.
Not including the current season, the Chargers are only 17-15 in November since 2006; often having at least two of their games away. For the last five seasons, the Chargers have accumulated 122 penalties for 885 yards, yet have only scored 531 total points in November. Starting this month off like many of the previous ones, the team is 0-1; having lost to the Dolphins in Miami. Even last season, the Chargers went 1-3 with three away games in the month of November; entering December at 5-6. In the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons, the Chargers only managed a 4-7 record; they missed the playoffs all three of those seasons.
The Chargers return from a bye week with a 5-4 record and face off on Sunday at the Q against their division rivals the Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately, Rivers is 3-5 coming off a bye week. In the last three years, the Chargers have lost their second game in November every time; two of three were home games and one of the home game losses were against the Raiders. Since 2010, Rivers hasn’t been able to surpass a passer rating greater than 100.0%; only averaging 99.8% in the month of November. Let’s face it, the Chargers do not perform well in the middle of the season. However, December is a completely different story.
If you haven’t heard before, you should hear it now; Philip Rivers and the Chargers are red-hot in December. Rivers’ middle name should really be “clutch” since he continuously pulls through at the end of every season. Since 2006, he is 30-6 in December. Not enough to impress? Well, Rivers also has an average passer rating of 105.4% and has averaged only 2.6 interceptions opposed to the 3.8 average interceptions in November. In the 2013 season, Rivers led the team to win their last four games of the year and sneaking them into the playoffs. In the last six seasons, the Chargers went to the playoffs three times when the team had two or fewer losses in December. Since 2006, the team has a 5-3 record for their first December game; each opponent has been an AFC team. This year, the Chargers start December off at home versus the New England Patriots; an AFC East team. Unfortunately, Rivers is 1-3 against Tom Brady in the regular season. Why is this important? Defeating any AFC team will increase their chances of a post season appearance.
Unlike Peyton Manning, Rivers plays very well in outdoor stadiums with cold weather present. Yes, Rivers plays in an outdoor stadium in sunny San Diego, but the way he owns teams on their cold turf is incredible. For the last eight years, he has won 15 of 16 games played in outdoor stadiums during the cold December month. The last two games of this season are in outdoor stadiums; Kansas City and Santa Clara. Ending the season with two wins on the road in cold weather will impress more than just Charger fans.
For the Chargers to sneak into the playoffs this year, a winning November record is crucial. Luckily for them, they play the Oakland Raiders and the St. Louis Rams at home in the next two weeks; both teams only have a combined record of 3-15. Adding to that, Ryan Mathews, Melvin Ingram, Manti Te’o, and Jerry Attaochu all returned to practice this week. If Philip Rivers and company can continue their stellar December play and win games in November, there is no reason why they can’t turn heads and head into the 2014 playoffs. However, if history repeats itself, November can be another ugly month. Time will tell, but Rivers is capable of accomplishing the unheard of when most have already written him off.
It looks like the San Diego Chargers will have an additional challenge to deal with along with tackling and lack of defensive front seven depth. San Francisco’s KTVU Channel 2 reported today (Friday) that crews at Levi’s Stadium, the brand new $1.2 billion stadium in Santa Clara, have to replace the natural grass surface but are confident the newly sodded field will be ready in time for Sunday’s tilt with the Chargers.
The same report quoted Chargers Coach Mike McCoy as saying that the team will thoroughly inspect the turf before playing the 49ers on Sunday.
As reported by Pro Football Talk on Thursday, Forty-Niners Coach Jim Harbaugh cut short a public practice on Wednesday after players were slipping on the heavily damaged turf. Apparently the new turf has failed to take hold after only three events (one of which was the Broncos-Niners tilt). Bandera Bermuda grass, a heavier turf that is ideal for heavier traffic events like football was being installed today.
Comcast Sports Net Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco reported that while stadiums replace natural grass during the season, doing the deed in the middle of August isn’t normal. Yet, this instance isn’t the first time turf has been replaced on short. Maiocco cited last year’s BCS Championship game were new turf was put on the Rose Bowl in Pasadena just five days after a college bowl game was played there. Other activities to include a high school double-header featuring powerhouse Concord De La Salle may be in jeopardy.
A spokesman for the Forty-Niners has assured everyone that the field will be ready in time for today’s game.
While Chargers fans and players should be ready for some football on Sunday (rosters need to be reduced to 75 by Aug. 26), depending on the field condition, look out for slipping and ripping (ah, turf-wise).