In just a few days, the San Diego Chargers will face the Houston Texans in San Diego to kick off their 2013 season. Once again, it will be the second game of a Monday Night Football double header. Last year, the Bolts visited the Oakland Raiders and started the season with a win. They're hoping for the same outcome this Monday night.
Of course, it will be a much harder task facing J.J. Watt and the Texans. Houston won the AFC South last season with a 12-4 record. Matt Schaub threw for over 4,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2012. In 2013, he will have a new target in rookie wideout DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was taken by the Texans in the first round of this years draft and has big-play potential. Along with Hopkins on offense are Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Owen Daniels and Ben Tate.
The Chargers defense better be prepared.
Let's get on to a few questions facing the Chargers heading into their Week 1 game against the Houston Texans.
Healthy—it's a word that Chargers fans have been wanting to hear regarding the wide receiver corps for a long time.
Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal are both full participants in practice, meaning every wide receiver is ready to go for Monday's game. Who will see the most targets in Week 1? It's tough to call. Vincent Brown received high praise from Philip Rivers earlier this offseason, yet only had two receptions for 18 yards in the preseason. Meanwhile, Floyd and Royal missed most of the preseason, so no one receiver looks poised for a big game.
On the other hand, a tight end may be. Antonio Gates has looked great this offseason. He's in the best shape of his career and is completely healthy for the first time in three years. Gates already has the chemistry with Rivers and should be a matchup nightmare against the Texans defense.
Someone will be Philip Rivers' leading receiver. Whether it's Brown, Gates, Floyd, Royal, Seyi Ajirotutu, rookie Keenan Allen or even a running back, someone will click with Rivers throughout the game.
Prediction: Vincent Brown will lead the team in receptions and yards.
In a recent article written by Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, he named Ryan Mathews as the most important player to the Chargers' success. That's tough to argue with.
The last time the Chargers were legitimate playoff contenders was in 2007 and 2008, when LaDainian Tomlinson was still in San Diego and in his prime. Yes, the NFL is now a quarterback league, but a run game is crucial. Ryan Mathews is ready to break out.
Barring injury, Mathews can be a top back in this league. His 164 yards per game at Fresno State in 2009 was not a fluke. He led the nation for a reason. He doesn't have the best matchup against the Texans in Week 1, and the addition of Danny Woodhead and emergence of Fozzy Whittaker will take away his production, but Ryan Mathews will still be the feature back and should see his fair share of carries.
Prediction: 21 carries, 95 yards and one touchdown.
The biggest question heading into the Chargers' game against the Texans is Manti Te'o's health. The rookie inside linebacker sprained his foot early in the preseason and has not practiced with the team since August 8.
All signs are pointing toward Te'o not playing on Monday night, but the possibility is still there. Having Te'o on the field is crucial for the defense. He was a steal in the second round and will pair very nicely next to Donald Butler, who the Chargers must extend right away. The inside linebacker position is an area that the Chargers have no depth at. They've already lost Jonas Mouton for the season, making Bront Bird and Andrew Gachkar the next in line to start.
Prediction: Manti Te'o will not play this week against the Texans. Bront Bird will start in his place.