If the San Diego Chargers aren't desperate, Norv Turner isn't doing his job.
The Chargers care coming off a pathetic loss to the suddenly surging Miami Dolphins. They come home for the only time in the month of October (they have a brutal travel schedule to start the season), to face a 3-1 Patriots team (No. 9 in this week's Power 10) that, like the Chargers, is a mere shadow of the team that played in the AFC Championship game last season.
This was supposed to be an epic rematch of the two AFC Super Bowl favorites. Instead, the Patriots are struggling to keep up with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East, and the Chargers are desperately trying not to fall completely out of the playoff picture before the month of November.
The Chargers could easily be 4-1 right now. But they're not. Blame shoddy officiating all you want, there are bigger issues in San Diego than the zebras.
The last-second drive they allowed Jake Delhomme to engineer against them was an embarrassment. I like the Panthers as much as the next guy, but the vaunted Charger defense needs to be able to come up with a stop. Their play in that drive was pathetic.
The Denver game should have been even more embarrassing, but we've allowed ourselves to be distracted by the awful call Ed Hochuli made in that game-winning drive.
Yes, the Chargers would have won the game if the call was made correctly. No argument there. But had they won, it would have been one of the luckiest and least-deserved wins in the NFL so far this season.
Let's get a few facts straight here:
*The Charger defense was in the process of handing the game to the Broncos, similar to what they had done the week before, when Jay Cutler dropped the ball. It's not like the defense made a great play. He just dropped the ball.
*The Chargers had a chance to stop them on 4th-and-goal. They didn't. A good defense steps up to that challenge, rather than pouting about the missed call and allowing itself to be beaten.
*The Chargers were given a gift when Denver decided to go for two. Their entire defensive collapse would have been forgiven if their All-Pro-filled defense could make one play. They didn’t make the play.
You see, Ed Hochuli showed the Broncos where the door was, but the Chargers held it open for them.
Rebound wins against the Jets and the Raiders were wiped off the map by their surprisingly pathetic performance against the Dolphins. Which sets us up for this weekend.
The Chargers must win this weekend. If they lose, they could be looking at a four-game deficit to the Denver Broncos. Not something that's likely to be made up easily.
The Patriots, on the other hand, are hardly desperate. The AFC East, while stronger, is still there for the taking. The Patriots have struggled, but their schedule is insanely easy. They can lose this game and still win 11 or 12 games, easily making the playoffs without breaking a sweat.
If the Chargers don't win this weekend, one thing is certain: The Chargers will not make the playoffs.
If you think about it, it's really unbelievable that a team this talented could be staring a 2-4 record square in the eyes.
The NFC East Will Flex Its Muscle This Weekend
The Washington Redskins are at home against the St. Louis Rams.
The Dallas Cowboys are on the road against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Philadelphia Eagles are on the road against the San Francisco 49ers.
The New York Giants are on the road against the Cleveland Browns.
Can anyone honestly see any of these teams losing? Assuming they all win (and they will, no doubt), the NFC East's combined record will be an insane 18-5.
Shouldn't the competition committee look into a way to allow all four of these teams to make the playoffs this season? Do we really need an NFC West representative? Can't we replace the winning of that division with the last-place team in the NFC East?
Or at least force them to win a play-in game against the Eagles...
Game of the Week, Defensive version: Carolina at Tampa Bay
The Carolina Panthers have quietly become one of the best teams in the NFC not playing in the NFC East. Maybe THE best team in the NFC not playing in the NFC East.
The Tampa Bay Bucs, while struggling to score points of their own, did an admirable job holding down the high powered Denver offense last week. They're always stout defensively.
Should be a fun game to watch.
Of course, no way my man Jake Delhomme loses to Tampa Bay.
Game of the Week, Offensive version: Dallas at Arizona
If you like offense, especially passing offense, this is going to be a fantastic game to watch.
If I were a betting man, and I am, I'd bet the over on both points and interceptions.
Especially on interceptions.
Quick Notes, Thoughts, Comments:
*If Miami can knock off the winless Houston Texans, they'll be 3-2. Going into the season, only the most irrational Dolphins fans thought they'd be over .500 at any point this season. Talk about a ridiculous turnaround.
*The Bengals will win this week against the Jets.
*How is Pacman Jones still employed in the NFL? The dude is a scumbag who happens to also be an overrated cornerback. Yes, he returns punts as well as anyone. But is it really worth the bad PR?
*I hate Matt Cassel on the road in San Diego. Almost as much as I hate Norv Turner vs. Bill Belichick. Almost.
*The Baltimore Ravens are for real, and if the Colts play like they did last week, they'll get stomped.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.