The Beasts Are BACK
Unfortunately, the Bolts haven't been past the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs since 2007. That is way too long for a team with this kind of talent. Even more so, it is way too long for a team with this kind of talent that plays in the AFC West.
This year, San Diego is recharged, they are reloaded, and they look like they could be one of the most dominant teams in the NFL on both sides of the ball.
Philip Rivers, who I think is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the league, will have his offense back at full health. Not only will Antonio Gates be healthy, and the recently re-signed Malcom Floyd be healthy, but I expect a huge step forward for running back Ryan Mathews.
Mathews had a somewhat tough rookie season last year, but finished the year with a bang:
26 carries, 120 yards, 3 touchdowns
I'm not saying he's going to be doing that all year in 2011, but I do expect to see a lot more decisiveness and aggression from the tough kid out of Fresno State.
With Mathews and the ever-reliable Mike Tolbert, the running game should be sizzling this season.
How many games will the Chargers win?
The passing game is what will separate this offense from the pack though. Rivers is a superstar quarterback who has passed for 4000 yards three years in a row. And you know what? I expect this to be his best season to date.
He has all the weapons he will ever need, and he has finally become the unquestioned leader of this offense. With Vincent Jackson back in action, for good, Rivers could compete for the MVP Award.
On to the defense.
Really, what can you say about this defense, other than it is always really damn good. This year? Again, it could be one of the greatest defenses we've seen in San Diego.
Bob Sanders, if healthy of course, together with Eric Weddle form one of the best safety tandems in the NFL. Both can punish wide receivers and running backs alike. I loved Chargers GM A.J. Smith's aggressiveness in locking up Sanders before the NFL Lockout began. It shows how much he believes in defense, and it also shows his great devotion to winning despite financial limitations.
A smart, sneaky signing by a smart, sneaky GM.
As for the rest of the defense? Well, they added Takeo Spikes who had 109 tackles and three interceptions last season. That's a good start.
The rest of the defense remains almost fully intact, including pass-rushing virtuoso, Shaun Phillips. If there is one thing you can always count on in San Diego, it is that the Chargers are going to bring the pressure, and they are going to bring it all day.
With Phillips on the outside, and the two safeties patrolling the middle, this defense is going to be hell for opposing quarterbacks.
If the San Diego Chargers can stay healthy, and as we have learned from the past, that is a big if, then I foresee then winning the AFC West with ease, and starting their march to the NFL Playoffs at home. Whether they get past the Divisional Round is up to them, but they sure as hell can't blame it on a lack of talent.
This team is as loaded as it has ever been, and the time for them to win is right now.