A Chargers Run For The Playoffs?

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A Chargers Run For The Playoffs?

17 Sept 2008

 

    Two games down and sitting at an uncomfortable 0-2 spot, are the once considered Super Bowl bound Chargers looking at a disappointing season?  The Chargers undoubtedly have a lot going against them this season, and more than likely will not have the same success they had last season, but to count them out so early in the season is unreasonable.  On the down side, they lost Michael Turner, a running back that played very well in the shadows of LaDainian Tomlinson the last couple seasons, Tomlinson's injuries still seem to be of great concern, Shawn Merriman is out for the season, and they have already lost their first two games, including one last Sunday against the Denver Broncos that seemed to highlight more of their flaws and weaknesses than talents.  That said, I still believe they have a chance to pull things together and have a decent season, as you watch Darren Sproles step up and fill Michael Turner's shoes, and considering the weakness of the Division they are in.  Oakland played a great game against Kansas City last Sunday, although you could argue that the Chiefs are the new Raiders, in that they not only beat themselves in that game, but looked absolutely horrible in doing so.  The Raiders may be a sleeper team that surprises people, but I doubt they will be much more than a .500 team even if McFadden continues to run the ball well.  The only other team left is Denver, who barely pulled out a win against San Diego last week, and as the re-play showed, shouldn't have even won that game. 

    San Diego has an advantage by being not only in a weak Division, but also by having a fairly easy schedule.  My guess is that they will look back at their last couple games, figure out and fix what they've been doing wrong, pull out a 10-6 or 9-7 season, and end up barely winning the AFC West, nudging the Broncos into a possible wild card spot.  This brings up  the question of how well a Chargers team without Merriman and  possibly Tomlinson, if injuries persist, can hold up in a potential playoff situation.  I believe the Chargers need to do a couple of things to be competitive.  First, and many would disagree, the Chargers need to establish Sproles as their first string running back, and they need to allow Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert to gain some experience to be able to step up and be run the ball more often.  The days of Tomlinson being relied on  to play almost every minute of every quarter is over.  I don't want to say he's a liability, but with his injury situations of late, the Chargers need to find new leaders to step up in the backfield and make big plays, rather than on relying on Tomlinson to heal up and become the running back he once was.  If he does, great, but I think at this point, they would be in a better situation if they didn't make that assumption.

    The second thing the Chargers need to do is work on their defense.  No defense in the NFL should give up 39 points to the Denver Broncos.  I will credit the Broncos in that they may actually be a competitive team this season, but not that competitive.  After Ed Hochuli's call that gave the Broncos a second chance, there is no excuse for the Chargers' defense to give up a touchdown AND a 2-point conversion.  The Broncos ran all over the Chargers' defense and when San Diego started to step up their rush defense, Jay Cutler completed pass after pass, resulting in the Broncos racking up more yards than they should...ever.  Ed Hochuli is not to blame, the Chargers defense is to blame.  Thirty-eight points should ALWAYS win a football game, no excuse. 

    If the Chargers can fix these problems, I believe an AFC West spot is in the bag, with a difficult yet decent chance still to earn a trip to the Super Bowl. Doubtful that any AFC West team will be able to earn a wild card spot into this seasons playoffs, they must clinch the AFC West in order to make it to the playoffs. 

Predictions:

San Diego 10-6

Denver 9-7

Oakland 7-9

Kansas City 3-13

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