St. Louis Rams
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.
There is no denying that Donald Butler was missing in action for the Miami game and a good portion of this season. In fact, he has looked completely lost at times, and well detached to say the least. Fellow senior writer, Mike Pisciotta, has already announced an Amber Alert, and quite frankly I’m surprised there hasn’t been a reward offered for his return; maybe even put his picture on a milk carton. However, something happened last Sunday against the Raiders. There was a resurgence from Butler that most fans haven’t seen for a long time.
Sure, the bye week has helped almost all Charger players rest and recover from a brutal first half of the season, but that wasn’t what contributed to Butler’s success. Defensive coordinator, John Pagano, was forced to make well needed adjustments; from that, Butler flourished. Sunday, Butler had three tackles, one pass defended and a fumble recovery. Who really expected that to happen? You might be asking, “What was different that allowed Donald Butler to excel rather than decline?” Well, here it goes; limited snaps.
Donald Butler was limited to the base defense and was primarily used as a run defender rather than a pass defender. Yes, it took this long for the coaching staff to finally make the switch, but it worked. According to Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Butler only played 30 snaps out of 60. According to the 3-4 defensive scheme that San Diego uses, it was pure genius. In case you didn’t know what a base defense is, it’s practically the default defense and other variations are added on from there.
There are three linemen and four linebackers in a 3-4 defensive formation. The fourth rusher can be a linebacker, but to confuse the opposing quarterback the safety is often used as the pass rusher in the blitz play. Yet, to give more confusion, the fourth potential rusher can be any of the seven defenders. I will give you a good guess as to who filled in as the pass rusher; he wears No. 54 and causes complete havoc when playing. Melvin Ingram was finally back on the field after suffering a hip injury after week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.
After the big and quite inflated contract Butler received this offseason, one would think that limited snaps is not exactly what everyone was anticipating for an expected three-down linebacker; including the Chargers organization. Yet, it’s obvious that he does well in specific scenarios and with other great linebackers around him. Adding Jeremiah Attaochu, Manti Te’o, and of course Melvin Ingram you could instantly see how much better Butler played. It’s noticeable that the amount of snaps is tiring him and causing fatigue; therefore missing tackles and blowing coverage. Either way you cut it, with the return of his other linebackers, Butler has reemerged for the better.
The Chargers face off against the St. Louis Rams this Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium and it won’t be an easy game. Just last week they defeated the Denver Broncos with an aggressive and disruptive defense. On a positive note, the Rams are only 2-3 on the road this season. Coming off one of the best defensive games played this year, Butler and company will look to continue their success by limiting third-down conversions and forcing turnovers. Don’t be surprised if you see Butler in the same rotation and limited snaps like last Sunday; seemingly it’s a good look for him.
Last Sunday, the Chargers broke their modest (in comparison to the Raiders) three-game losing streak with a hard-fought victory over the winless Raiders. Although this is not a “signature win”, it is a win nonetheless. All Chargers fans should be happy for the rest of the week. That being said, the players can only celebrate for about 24 hours and then their minds need to be focused on their next opponent, the St. Louis Rams.
At 4-6, the Rams do not immediately instill fear in the hearts of many teams. Sam Bradford, their highly respected QB was injured, and has not played since early in the season. Since then, it is quarterback by committee for the Rams which has proven to make scoring difficult and winning even more of a challenge. Look for the Rams to rely on running the ball and strong defense to try to win this game.
So what do the coaches have to do to prepare their team mentally for this upcoming game? After all, the Rams are flying high after their 22-7 drubbing of Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos. At the same time, the Chargers may have some confidence issues after barely getting by lowly Oakland, following three straight losses. There has even been some controversy during the week after Antonio Gates discussed a lingering rib injury that Philip Rivers has been dealing with. Is their team leader going to be healthy enough to play well? This is the first time in a long time that question has been on anyone’s mind at Chargers Park.
Let’s take a look at the job Rams Head Coach, Jeff Fisher has in front of him this week. He needs to find a way to keep his team high, but not allow them to become over-confident and look past the struggling Bolts. Here are five angles that Fisher could take while leading the Rams this week:
- Defense Needs to Continue to Step Up: “Yes, we had a great team win against the Broncos last Sunday. We beat them in all three phases and showed them that no one can sleep on the St. Louis Rams! Yes, Peyton threw for a lot of yards, but that’s okay! You have to expect that with Peyton. The important thing was that when our backs were against the wall, we picked off two of his passes! We also sacked him three times! Consistent pressure, timely turnovers, and completely shutting down the run game is why the Broncos were only able to put seven points on the board. That’s right, SEVEN! If we can continue that kind of defensive intensity, we can shut down the Chargers offense the same way.
- Offense and Special Teams: “Offense, I haven’t forgotten you. I think you would agree that we didn’t exactly light it up out there. One touchdown and five field goals is not how we want to finish drives. That being said, what we did do is stay on the field. 35 minutes of ball control offense helped keep that Broncos offense off of the field. That helped our defense stay fresh and able to attack. As for the Special Teams? What can I say? Five field goals speaks for itself. Outstanding effort by the special teams. We don’t win that game without your effort.
- Make Up Our Minds: “Now, what I want to know is this: Who are we? Can we please just make up our minds? We currently have a record of four wins and six losses. Three of our four wins are against San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver! The 4-6 teams in the league are not supposed to beat those guys! Yet, we do. That being said, we have these great wins but have yet to win two in a row! We are in a tough spot right now. We have quality wins that will show other teams that they better show up and play ball. But, we also have a losing record which can lull teams to sleep. Well, I’ll tell you what. The Chargers will not sleep on us after we took down their division rival. They know we are coming in to beat them and they will try hard not to let that happen. So it’s time to ask yourself, “who are we?” If we are winners, let’s prove it on Sunday.”
- Must Win: “Gentlemen, I’m not going to blow sunshine up your dress. With six losses already, we are pretty much in a must win situation every week now. If we plan on going to the dance, we need to get on a win streak and keep it rolling. Traditionally, 10 wins will get you in. That is the most we can get! I say we take it one game at a time and string together some wins and see what happens. We have already beaten three of the best teams in football. There is no reason that we can’t win every Sunday. But it starts with this Sunday in San Diego.
- Speaking of San Diego: “One final word about this week’s game. The Chargers have indeed been struggling. They have only won a single game in their last four and that was against the Raiders who still haven’t beaten anyone. They are a talented team that has been dealing with injuries. They are getting healthy and have shown improvement on defense. At the same time, their offense has been slowed down greatly in recent weeks. They haven’t scored more than 21 points in the last four weeks and they were even shutout once by Miami! Rivers is banged up. That is definitely to our advantage. We need to hit him every chance we get. Play clean, but play hard. Just like we did last week and I truly believe we have a happy flight home.”
Moving over to the Chargers locker room, let’s see what Head Coach Mike McCoy might say to get his players mentally prepared for what is sure to be a difficult challenge:
- Oakland is Behind Us: “I know that you are being told by the press and social media outlets that we didn’t play well against the Raiders. You know how I feel about that. I think we made a solid team effort and beat a division rival, made up of professional football players, who have been in every game they have played. The Raiders will win eventually. If a team looks past them, they will win. We did what we had to do. We improved our run game, our coverage, our pass rush, and most impressively, our special teams. We won the time of possession battle and well as the field position battle. Most importantly, we won the points battle. In the NFL, that is all you can ask for so keep your heads up and don’t listen to anyone outside of our camp. They don’t know what they are talking about.”
- Keep Things in Perspective: “Now that you know that I am very proud of our effort against the Raiders, understand that we need to keep things in perspective as well. This was not a signature win. We only scored one touchdown. Offensively, we are not where we need to be. I thought our running game was much improved, but it is going to be challenged again this week by one of the best and deepest from defensive fronts in the league. The Rams are tough on defense. Their numbers aren’t staggering, but they have improved lately. Let’s face it; they just held the Broncos to seven points. That’s impressive. On the other hand, Peyton was able to throw for almost 400 yards. If not for a couple untimely turnovers, it’s a whole new ballgame. Keep Philip on his feet and we should be able to move the ball through the air. Denver was not able to run, but they are hurting for healthy players to run the ball. I believe that we will have more success in that area. Offensive line, this is another week where your effort and success could make all of the difference.”
- Philip: “Men, I mentioned keeping Philip on his feet. That has never been more important than this week. As everyone knows, he is a little banged up. We also know that he is one tough son of a gun and won’t miss any reps in practice or plays in the game. BUT, that can all change if too many shoulder pads, or helmets find their target! It’s no secret that Greg Williams is the Defensive Coordinator for the Rams. It is also no secret that he was suspended from coaching for a year due to his involvement in “Bounty Gate”. Let’s face it; he created the bounty system that paid players for injuring other players. Last week, the Broncos lost three skill position players during their game. His defenses his hard and often. Make sure you do not let up, or forget to keep your head on a swivel all the way through the whistle, and maybe a couple of seconds after.”
- Defense Wins Games: “Defensive guys, I am looking forward to another step up from you. Last week, our coverage was much tighter and we were able to keep Carr moving around in the pocket. That was great, but it is behind us now. Now, we get to show the league that it wasn’t just a bad offense from the Raiders, but it was in fact a solid defensive effort by our team. You need to meet, or beat, the intensity of the Rams this week and I guarantee that their level will be extremely high. I want to dominate the time of possession. Part of that is on the offense. They must get first downs and have no turnovers. The rest is on you! We still need to greatly improve on third down and we must tackle better as well. No more shoulder tackles. These guys are too big to just knock over. Wrap up and play solid fundamental football. DB’s, how about a pick or two? Can you do that for us? I think you can. Now you just have to go out there and prove it.”
- One Game at a Time: “Men, I know we are getting down to the last third of our schedule and the race is very tight between us and the Chiefs and Broncos. You’re not stupid. You understand that there may only be one wild card representative from the AFC West this season, as it looks right now. Where here is the good news. If we take care of our business, we are in. Screw the wild card; we can still win the West! But we can’t win all six games of Sunday, November 23, 2014. We can only beat one team on that day and that is the Rams. If we look ahead, we will lose our focus and that is not good. We need to have a razor-sharp focus and that has to be all about this Sunday. I know it is cliché, but it truly is one game at a time. Let’s go win this one game!”
Only the players for each team really know what mind games the coaches are playing on them this week, but those are some angles that I would take. What points would you try to get across, if you were the head coach or either team?
Thanks for reading and please comment below. I will get back to you ASAP.
Enjoy the game and Go Chargers!!!
A little over a month ago, the Chargers were off to a 5-1 start and coming in at number one in multiple NFL power rankings. Those regards have long since disappeared as San Diego comes out of their bye week looking to end a three game losing streak. The now 5-4 Chargers are no longer on anyone’s lips. No one is talking about Philip Rivers’ chances for league MVP. All the eyes are on the Broncos, Patriots and Colts as the class of the AFC if not the league.
That’s a good thing. Keep moving, nothing to see here.
That hot start disappeared as the injuries mounted and the Chargers found themselves playing a brutal schedule of three games in 14 days against teams (KC, Denver, Miami) that are all in the playoff mix as of now.
The bye week, no matter when in the season it occurs, always seems to happen when it needs to happen. The Chargers desperately needed that two weeks off to get bodies out of the trainers room and back onto the field. These are key bodies that were instrumental in the Bolts 5-1 start. Such a thing has happened as its been reported that the Chargers will regain many starters who have been out of action for a long while.
The anemic running game gets a shot in the arm as the Chargers top two running backs, Ryan Mathews and Donald Brown return. The hobbled right tackle DJ Fluker has had time to regain full strength. On defense, returning playmakers Dwight Freeney, Jeremiah Attaochu, Mantei Teo and Melvin Ingram will bolster the defensive line. Brandon Flowers will add much-needed punch to a struggling secondary. Safety Jahleel Addae will also return once he clears concussion testing.
The San Diego Chargers are gone. The San Diego SUPER CHARGERS are back!
While the rest of the world expects the Chargers to disappear along with the other also-rans, expect San Diego to hit their stride. Here’s the way I see the rest of their season playing out.
Week 11- Oakland
It had the feel of a homecoming game for the Chargers. Coming out of the bye week on a three-game losing streak punctuated by the sting of a 37-0 beatdown by the Dolphins still in the air, who better to begin the second half of the season against than the Raiders? Though it was an ugly win, it was a win and a step in the right direction.
Week 12- St. Louis
The Rams have a strong front seven but their offense is downright horrid. The revitalized Chargers offensive line will keep the Rams linemen at bay while Rivers flings touchdowns. Chargers win 30-15.
Week 13- At Baltimore
The Ravens and Chargers have been mirror images of each other for parts of the season. The difference is the Chargers are now beginning to lap the still helter skelter Ravens. Defense wins the day for the Chargers, 24-17.
Week 14 and 15- New England and Denver
The Chargers true tests will come in these two games. Both home games against the best teams in the AFC. If my prophecy holds, San Diego will be 8-4 heading into the New England game and in the thick of the playoff race. I see the Chargers losing one of these games. I lean toward the New England game as that loss because I figure the Denver games would each go to the home team. For that reason I believe the Patriots will get by the Chargers in a nail biter, 28-27 and the Chargers get revenge against team Manning 27-21.
Week 16- at San Francisco
San Diego heads up the PCH to face a 49ers team that will also be fighting for their playoff lives. This Saturday matchup will be a smashmouth affair. San Francisco should have both their stud pass rushers back in Aldon Smith and Navorro Bowman as both have been gone a majority if not all of the season. The difference in the game will be the offense. Kaepernick is digressing in games and the speed on the Chargers (hopefully) now healthy defense will bottle the scrambler the same way they did with Russell Wilson. The Chargers will prove to have too much firepower and beat the Niners 31-16.
Week 17- at Kansas City
This too could be a game with a playoff spot on the line. The Chiefs won’t be resting their starters this year. The Chiefs have the best home field advantage east of the Missouri river and San Diego has its history of troubles in that ballpark. Still, I don’t see the Chargers getting swept by any team in the AFC West so I expect a strong finish to the season and a playoff entry by way of a 20-14 win.
That’s right, I have the Chargers winning six of their last seven games. It’s easy to look at them after the past three games as the ‘same old Chargers’ but the name of the game is always injuries and now the Chargers are coming out on the right end of the injury equation just in time to make their playoff run. Rivers now has a running game that will free up receivers and enough big play performers on defense to give him short fields. I expect a fully bolted up unit coming out of the tunnel Sunday and while dismantling the Raiders won’t gather any national attention, knocking off playoff bound teams along the way will.
The Greg One
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.
The Chargers enter the week 10 bye with a record of 5-4. Prior to their three-game losing streak, the Bolts had ripped off 5 consecutive victories. The season is at a crossroads and the time for fixing errors and regrouping is now.
Looking at their current record, the roller coaster that is the 2014 campaign has seen both highs and lows. The injury bug seems to have set up shop in San Diego. We would all kindly ask it to buzz off and leave this team alone.
Here’s a look at the remaining games.
Week 11: Oakland Raiders ( 0-8 )
Week 12: St. Louis Rams ( 3-5 )
Week 13: @ Baltimore Ravens ( 5-4)
Week 14: New England Patriots ( 7-2 )
Week 15: Denver Broncos ( 6-2 )
Week 16: @ San Francisco 49ers ( 4-4 )
Week 17: @Kansas City Chiefs ( 5-3)
All games in the NFL are tough to win. I am not discounting the next two teams the Chargers play, but those last 5 games are daunting. San Diego will be fighting for their lives with what is the 3rd toughest remaining schedule in the league. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
After having the best point differential in the NFL, they now rank 16th. They have a division record of 1-2 after falling to the Broncos and the Chiefs. The Chargers have a chance to even up their division record after the bye when they host the Raiders; whom they beat 31-28 in week 6 in Oakland.
Here’s where you get involved. Below is a poll for you to place your vote on what the final 2014 record will be for San Diego. Make sure you vote on the poll and leave your comments on which games they’ll win, and which games they’ll lose.
Thanks a lot for reading, voting and leaving comments.
There are some that would love to see the San Diego Chargers move to Los Angeles – mostly those involved in the business aspect. There are even a few that would root for the club if they became the L.A Chargers. I, on the other hand, feel absolutely sick to my stomach even at the thought of it, and here’s why.
I was born and raised in San Diego and currently reside in Arizona. I have many fond memories of my hometown and visit fairly often. My memories include such things as jet skiing in the bay, bonfires on the beach and hanging out at Horton Plaza mall. Even my late father’s ashes lay in the frigid water of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Coronado. Yet, my most favorite recollections are watching the San Diego Chargers on TV. Supporting the Chargers is what keeps me close to home, and keeps those memories alive and vivid in my mind. For the past few years, there have been multiple articles written and many discussions articulating the possibility of the Chargers moving to L.A. That being said, I could never root for the L.A Chargers.
I do not like L.A. It could be the traffic, the vanity of everyone that lives there or even the annoyance of how everything feels so rushed. There has always been an undisclosed tension between the people of San Diego and Los Angeles, but I don’t think anything compares to the football pressure. Yes, the Chargers spent a year in L.A, but left in 1961 for one reason…no fans! Most recently, many were left bitter when the Rams left there and headed east to St. Louis after the 1994 season. Since then, the city has been searching for a team to wake up the city’s sleepy football community. Here’s where I will say, with my heart on my sleeve, “Look somewhere else because it can’t be the San Diego Chargers”.
San Diego is a city everyone loves. Have you ever heard someone utter “meh, I really don’t like San Diego”? I have so much love for where I’m from and for the Chargers! I sometimes blab on about how Philip Rivers, even without a Super Bowl ring, is a top-five quarterback, or that the team is extremely underrated, or even going as far as wearing a shirt with Manning’s name and an inappropriate symbol embossed on it. I love San Diego and I love the San Diego Chargers. Hell, I even love that Father Time stadium we call the Q. I couldn’t possibly see it any other way. Envisioning “The Los Angeles Chargers” makes me cringe and snarl. But more importantly, I feel a heavy heart with even the possibility of a move; a heaviness that cannot ever be mended. The San Diego Chargers are one of the last things to give me solace in the city I live that isn’t considered home.
One of San Diego’s greatest athletes was born in Los Angeles, the late Tony Gwynn, but spent his entire baseball career in the nation’s finest city playing his entire career with the Padres. For many reasons, Gwynn migrated to San Diego and remained there. Even his final resting place is in Poway. In addition, Junior Seau spent his beginning and remaining years in San Diego. With such a rich history, there’s absolutely every reason to be a fan of any San Diego professional sport.
I despise Los Angeles, and the fact that the city was once home to the Raiders gives me an even more burning hatred. I want the Chargers to forever claim San Diego as their finest city, and having the best fans in the NFL. I couldn’t see it any other way. Fans like me will agree it wouldn’t be the same and, personally, the loss would perpetually scar my football heart. It might be that the Chargers have a very special fan base or that they continue to have an underdog reputation and never get the credit they deserve. But I wouldn’t want it to be any different. The San Diego Chargers are imprinted on me, like a scalding brand to a calf’s hindquarter. I cannot, and will never, support a team called the L.A Chargers.
After an exciting 4-1 start, the Chargers have put themselves in perfect position to compete for the division crown. The Bolts have shown moments of absolute brilliance during the first portion of the season, but they have also had moments that make you want to shake your head. In reality, the Bolts are one bad snap away from being 5-0.
This is the third time in four years that San Diego has started the season 4-1, while that is an impressive stat, the Bolts have only been able to turn one of those into a playoff appearance. If they want to make a second consecutive trip to the playoffs, they must be able to avoid the occasional letdown.
It’s no secret that the Chargers have one of the most formidable schedules in the NFL this year. But the next few weeks set up very well for them. The next seven games are against opponents with a combined record of 8-18, and they should be favored in six of those seven (Week 8, at Denver, being the exception). If the Bolts have any aspirations of winning the AFC West, they must take advantage of the next seven games.
That being said, I expect San Diego to own a 7-2 record heading into their Week 10 bye. Following the bye, San Diego will face the Raiders and Rams at home, which are both games that they should, and will, win. Then, assuming the Chargers are sitting at 9-2, they begin to get into the meat of their schedule.
The last five games are against opponents with a combined record of 11-8 with games against Baltimore, San Francisco, and Kansas City on the road, and New England and Denver at home. If the Chargers can make it through the last five games with a 3-2 record that would leave them with a 12-4 record heading into the playoffs.
Again, for this scenario to actually play out, the Bolts must take advantage of the favorable schedule over the next few weeks. The AFC Wildcard looks to be much more competitive this season, and I’m not sure 9-7 will be good enough to earn a spot in the playoffs. With that being said, it is in the their best interest to win as many as possible, and the next seven games give them the perfect opportunity to gain space between themselves and the rest of the AFC.
Here’s to hoping the Chargers are capable of avoiding a letdown this season. I have full faith in Mike McCoy and his coaching staff, and I can’t help but notice there is a different mindset surrounding this team than there has been in years past. I think this has the makings to be a very special season. So buckle you seat belt and enjoy the ride.
Go Chargers! BoltUp!
After a surprising, albeit exciting, playoff appearance last year, are the Chargers poised for another run at the playoffs? I’m going to go through the daunting schedule and take a look at some matchups that could potentially give the Bolts some trouble.
First, the Chargers open the preseason with the Dallas Cowboys, and play three preseason games against regular season opponents (Seattle, Arizona, and San Francisco).
Week 1 @Arizona: San Diego’s toughness will be tested from Week 1. Arizona showed a lot of improvement last year with strong quarterback play from Carson Palmer and a much improved defense. If the Chargers can control the time of possession and limit turnovers I don’t see them losing this game.
Week 2 SEATTLE: The most exciting, and probably the toughest, game on our schedule happens to be against the defending Super bowl champs. This early matchup offers a barometer-setting home game for Bolts fans. Although this game is at home, Philip Rivers would have to play close perfect for the Bolts to come out with a win. The league’s toughest defense will prove to be too much for the Bolts to handle in Week 2.
Week 3 @Buffalo: Buffalo should be an easy win for the Bolts, but we have seen let downs when San Diego travels east for a 1:00 PM EST kickoff. Luckily, weather should not be much of a factor for a late September game, which takes away one of Buffalo’s biggest weapons. As long as the Bolts can slow down CJ Spiller and Sammy Watkins, then a victory won’t be in doubt. I expect San Diego to steamroll to a victory in Buffalo.
Week 4 JACKSONVILLE: The Jacksonville Jaguars have consistently been one of the worst teams in the NFL for more than a decade, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It will be interesting to see if Gus Bradley gives Bortles the keys to the offense from Day 1, or if he will stick with the underachieving Chad Henne. The Jags have some young talent on the offensive side of the ball, with acquisition of Toby Gerhart and acquiring Blake Bortles and Marquise Lee through this year’s draft. In the end, none of this will matter, and Philip Rivers will have his way with a poor Jags Defense. Bolts win this one in blowout fashion.
Week 5 NEW YORK JETS: The Jets will pose a challenge for San Diego. With the new acquisitions of Michael Vick and Chris Johnson, and the always tough Rex Ryan defense, the Jets could be a team fighting for a Wild Card spot. I expect the pass rush to do their job and contain Vick, while forcing him to commit a couple of turnovers. Rivers will put points on the board as well, putting pressure on the Jets’ offense to score. San Diego should win this game fairly easily, which will prove to be a big tie-breaker opportunity in the race for a Wild Card spot at the end of the year.
Week 6 @Oakland: Don’t sleep on the Oakland Raiders this year. Reggie McKenzie and the staff added some quality players in this year’s draft; players that will play a major role in bringing wins to a city that has only seen a handful per year for a decade now. That being said, Oakland is still years away from being a legitimate contender in the AFC West. San Diego should win both games against the Raiders, but the season split from the previous two seasons has me concerned. The team from America’s finest city is miles ahead of Oakland at this point in time, and that should show on the field. If Matt Schaub can’t get the offense moving in Oakland, then the Raiders are in for another dismal season. San Diego will get back to their winning ways and sweep the Raiders this year, but wins over the hated rival may be a little tougher to come by in years to come.
Week 7 KANSAS CITY: I believe the Kansas City Chiefs began showing us who they really are toward the end of the season. Andy Reid is a great football coach and that defense, when healthy, can cause nightmares for opponents. Kansas City will be a good football team this year, but I do not see them having the same success as last year. As long as San Diego can limit the effectiveness of Jamaal Charles then they can expect a win. It is very reasonable to believe that the Bolts can sweep the season series with the Chiefs, much like last year. Nonetheless, I expect the Bolts to split with the Chiefs at the very least. Bolts win at the Q.
Week 8 @Denver: I find it very hard to believe that anyone is going to dethrone the Denver Broncos this year. As long as Peyton Manning is in Denver, they will be very hard to beat. I do, however, believe it is reasonable for Charger fans to expect a split in the home/away series. San Diego will be hard pressed to get a win in Denver. Denver will prove to be too much in this one as the Bolts will struggle to find their groove after two consecutive division opponents in weeks 6 and 7.
Week 9 @Miami: Miami may appear to be a fairly easy win for the Bolts, but I think otherwise. Miami is an improving team, and they could give the Chargers some problems. Ryan Tannehill has shown that he is capable of winning games in this league, and the addition of Knowshon Moreno will add versatility to an offense that sometimes lacked an identity last year. Coming off an emotional week preparing to play division rival Denver, this game will serve as a speed bump for the Bolts. San Diego will leave Miami with a loss.
Week 10: BYE WEEK
Week 11 OAKLAND: As I stated in my analysis of Week 6, the Bolts will get back to owning the Raiders and life will be grand. After two weeks to prepare, the Bolts win this one with ease.
Week 12 ST. LOUIS: The Rams are a young team on the rise, and could give the Bolts some problems on the offensive side of the ball. Tavon Austin is a young, explosive receiver who could change the momentum of the game with one play. Jason Verrett will have a breakout game and shut down Austin helping the Bolts come out with a win.
Week 13 @Baltimore: Baltimore remains a dangerous team in the NFL. With Super bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco the Ravens could be poised for another run at the playoffs. If Baltimore can get consistent play from Ray Rice this year then they will be right in the thick of the AFC Playoff race. This will be yet another tough test for San Diego, but as long as the Chargers can avoid giving up 4th and 29 conversions they should be competitive. I expect Phillip Rivers to have a big day against an inexperienced Ravens secondary, and the Bolts to squeak out a close game in Baltimore.
Week 14 NEW ENGLAND: San Diego will welcome the New England Patriots to Qualcomm Stadium for Sunday Night Football. This will be another stiff test for this team, but I expect to see a close, well-fought game from the Bolts. Historically, these two teams have played very close games, and it seems like the team with the ball last usually wins. Call me crazy, but I expect to see the Chargers win this game at home in front of a raucous crowd at the Q.
Week 15 DENVER: With the Chargers dropping the first game between these two hated rivals I expect to see a very strong showing from the Bolts at home. Throughout Manning’s career, San Diego has been his kryptonite, forcing Manning into a turnover machine. Also, with the expertise of former Denver personnel, head coach Mike McCoy and secondary coach Ron Miles, fans should expect a strong showing against the Broncos. I see the Chargers using their plethora of running backs to control the time of possession and play keep away from Manning’s offense. If the San Diego can limit Manning’s possessions and convert field goals into touchdowns, then they should be in very good position to pull out a win. Bolts will win this game at home and remain in the hunt for the AFC West crown.
Week 16 @San Francisco: This is one of the games I’m looking forward to the most. I believe this game will be a huge measuring stick for this football team. That being said, I expect an all out war when these teams meet in the Bay Area, and depending on which Charger team shows, I definitely don’t think a win is out of the realm of possibility. In the end, I think San Francisco’s offense will be too much for the Chargers to handle. The Bolts will play the ‘9ers close for the majority of the game, but San Fran will pull away when they need to.
Week 17 @Kansas City: Like last year, the Bolts will finish the season with the Kansas City Chiefs. I expect the Chiefs to be eliminated from playoff contention at this point, with virtually nothing left to play for but pride. San Diego could very well be playing for the playoff lives, and I expect them to finish the season strong and head into the playoffs with confidence.
As I look at the schedule and my analysis of each matchup, it looks I am very optimistic about the upcoming season. I have the Chargers winning 12 games (STL, AZ, NE, NYJ, BUF, DEN, KC (Twice), OAK (Twice), BAL, and Jacksonville) and losing 4 games (SEA, SF, MIA, and DEN).
As much as I would like to see the Bolts win 12 games this year I know the probability of that happening is slim. Even though the Chargers made a playoff run last year, it will be a lot more difficult this year with the schedule they’ll be facing.
Whether or not we make the playoffs should not be the measuring stick of success for this season. We have a GM that is loading this team with young talent, and I think it’s only a matter of time before the Bolts are back atop the AFC West.
Now, I will ask you the same questions. What is a realistic number of wins for this football team? And, will it be considered a failure if the Bolts fail to make a second consecutive playoff berth?