Updated Outlook for the San Diego Chargers' 2012 Schedule
During Thursday’s preseason opener, Jon Gruden uttered the words that every Charger fan is all too familiar with: “Every time I pay San Diego a compliment, something bad happens.” So many Boltheads have fantasized about “Chucky” on the Charger sidelines over the past few seasons. At least now Gruden can get a taste of what is like to follow this maddening football team.
Of course, the game against Green Bay took on far more significance than any of us wanted with the injury to Ryan Mathews. The fact that it literally only took one hit to get him onto the operating table is “eerily pathetic,” to say the least.
Everyone, myself included, has been talking about how important Mathews’ stepping up is this season. However, it’s hard to argue convincingly that anyone thought he wouldn’t get hurt at some point. Is it better to have it happen now? Only if he stays healthy upon returning.
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Despite the fact that the “give LT a call” murmurs have already begun, it’s unlikely that the Chargers will make any significant roster changes to compensate for Mathews’ absence. What impact will his injury have on the field? It’s hard to say. These are the Chargers we’re talking about.
Ronnie Brown has looked good, and Curtis Brinkley picked up where he left off on Halloween night in Kansas City. None of these guys are the weapon that Mathews can be. However, they’ve been as reliable as he has. I suppose that’s not saying much.
Since criticizing AJ Smith has become an integral part of being a Charger fan, I must add that Knowshon Moreno, Jahvid Best or Toby Gerhart wouldn’t have been any better for the Chargers. Before we blast AJ for another Larry English-like selection, let’s keep that in mind.
Equally concerning as Mathews’ lack of durability has been the back spasms of Jared Gaither. With Marcus McNeill announcing his retirement yesterday, AJ can’t be faulted for letting him go. However, Gaither has had injury problems before.
What is the impact of Mathews’ injury on predicting the Chargers’ 2012 win total? Probably not that much. They proved last year that even finally starting strong doesn’t ensure a good record. The good folks at PredictionMachine.com had the Chargers going 9-7, but still winning the AFC West. I think they’ll win at least 10 games. They’ve missed the playoffs for two consecutive seasons by failing to win more than nine games. Even they know that.
The Predictalator believes that the Bolts will lose at home to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12, but somehow get by them in the postseason with a 1-point win. Maybe it’s banking on the Bolts finding a team whose field goal kicker is an even bigger choker than their own.
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I differ with the Prediction Machine on the game not only against Baltimore, but the road contests in Kansas City and New Jersey as well. These two games were the Chargers’ biggest losses from a year ago. Their impact seemed to extend throughout the six-game losing streak. The fact that they came in consecutive weeks only compounded their devastating effect.
Those three games are the ones that the Chargers absolutely have to win in order to get into the postseason. If the AFC West is as mediocre as it has been over the last two seasons, they could get in at 9-7. However, they’ll get bounced out in the divisional round just as the last two division champions have. In fact, that’s exactly where Paul Bessire’s creation has the Bolts landing.
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Would a loss at Foxboro be a sufficient ending for the 2012 Chargers? Given where they’ve ended up for the last two seasons and the improvement of the other three divisional foes, it would appear so. But for the fans, it wouldn’t be good enough by a long shot.
This team has fallen short where it mattered most since 2004. I am going out on a limb to suggest that they are going to get back to winning the important contests during the regular season. But that’s what being a fan, albeit one who is increasingly frustrated, is all about. Isn’t it?