San Diego Chargers: 5 Make or Break Games That Will Shape the 2011/2012 Season

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San Diego Chargers: 5  Make or Break Games That Will Shape the 2011/2012 Season
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
OL: Chargers need to keep Philip Rivers on his feet if they stand any chance of reaching the SuperBowl.

A post-mortem of San Diego’s 2010-11 season reveals too many off days in a campaign of wildly fluctuating standards that accumulated in their failure to make the playoffs for the first time in six years. 

Few teams can match the Chargers attacking prowess (they topped the charts in offence and defence last year), but even fewer teams can match them for choking under pressure. The previous seasons have depressingly consistent themes; great expectations followed swiftly by self-implosion and disappointment. Head Coach Norv Turner has come in for a lot of criticism for his stubborn approach, and progress, preferably in the form of a Superbowl appearance, is now essential.

However, all is not bleak on the West Coast.

Yet again Philip Rivers turned in another spectacular year, throwing for 4,710 yards and 30 touchdowns. Incredible figures when you factor in the notable absence of his No.1 wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates for the majority of the season.

Rivers is edging towards towards the very top echelon of quarterbacks, and, although the absence of a Superbowl appearance is not yet a smear on his resume, a prolific postseason in 2011/2012 would go some way to confirming his induction into Messrs Manning, Brady and Bree's tight-knit circle.    

Furthermore, by adding vital experience (free agents Spikes and Sanders), keeping hold of key players (re-signed Eric Weddle and Vincent Jackson) and looking to have resolved the special teams issues that haunted them last year, the Chargers are a team with a point to prove.

Nothing will have hurt them more than losing to the Oakland Raiders twice in one season.

Nothing will arouse greater motivation than bouncing back to reclaim an AFC West title which, until recently, the Chargers have rightfully called their own.    

Yet again the Chargers are being picked by players and pundits alike as favorites to lift the Lombardi Trophy. Maybe, just maybe, this is the season that Rivers et al can finally relinquish their underachieving tag. In order to make that transition, here are five key games that will ultimately make or break San Diego's season.

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