7 Reasons the San Diego Chargers Will Win the AFC West with Ease
There are many reasons why the Bolts will out-class the competition. From statistical superiority to better personnel to improved game-planning, the Chargers are the team setting the pace in the division.
Yet, on any given day, any team in today’s NFL can beat any other.
What makes this Chargers team the easy favorite?
Simply put, the 2011 San Diego Chargers are hungrier, nastier and more motivated to win than at any other time in franchise history. The "now or never" attitude resonates with every player on the roster, every coach on the sideline and every fan in the stands.
The Chargers aren’t going to be pushovers this year; they aren’t going to be nice. They will dominate teams and be relentless as they push for their fifth divisional title in the past six years.
No. 1 Ranked Offense Returns
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The Chargers have a formidable offense that’s capable of putting up big numbers—a fact that is indisputable.
Defensive coordinators are biting off many finger nails and stockpiling spare underwear whenever they have to game-plan against the Bolts.
With the league’s No. 1 offense and No. 2 scoring offense in 2010, the Chargers fear no defense in the NFL. As scary as it may sound to the rest of the AFC West, this year they will be even better.
With an improved running game and three of the best receivers in the game available from day one, the Chargers will easily break the 27.6 points per game average they set last year.
At 6’4”, Gates is the shortest of the bunch, but like the other two, he has great leaping ability. This ability makes the Chargers passing game so intimidating. Rivers can just throw the ball up high into double coverage and any one of these three players can simply leap over most diminutive defenders and come down with the ball.
Don’t look now, but the Chargers offense is going to have a cakewalk through the AFC West this year.
Vincent Jackson Will Play a Full Season
Vincent Jackson skies over Darrelle Revis
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One of the biggest reasons for the resurgence of the Chargers back to the top of the AFC West will be the play of wide receiver Vincent Jackson.
His holdout last year and subsequent late return to the lineup is well known. This year he returns with the franchise tag and is looking to make a lasting impression that will land him a lucrative multi-year contract at season’s end.
Jackson is as hyped up as Charlie Sheen at an open bar. No one is more motivated to perform at the highest level than he is.
With Philip Rivers tossing accurate bombs his way at regular intervals and Jackson’s ability to separate from and leap over his coverage, he has a legitimate shot at leading the league in reception yards and touchdown passes caught.
Philip Rivers Has Something to Prove
Philip Rivers wears his heart on his sleeve.
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You can’t contemplate the Chargers chances without considering Philip Rivers’ contributions. The two are inseparable.
Rivers is the heart and soul of the Bolts. It's his team and the Chargers will only go as far as Rivers can take them.
He is often compared with great players like Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. All of these athletes have put up similarly outstanding numbers in their careers but there is one fundamental difference between all these players and Philip Rivers—a Super Bowl ring.
This is the year for the demonstrative quarterback to get the monkey off his back and finally be considered among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. The only way to do that is to dominate the AFC West and then bring the Lombardi Trophy home to San Diego.
He has led the league in passing yards and touchdowns. He has the second highest all-time quarterback rating in NFL history, but all of that doesn’t mean a thing unless he can leads his team back to the AFC West crown and on to a Super Bowl victory. It's time for Rivers to prove how “clutch” he really is.
Norv Turner Must Win This Year or Face the Firing Squad
Norv Turner will be more aggressive this year.
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Another man whose NFL reputation is on the line is San Diego Head Coach Norv Turner.
Turner has had the dubious distinction of taking over a 14-2 team and then subsequently driving them to underperform each successive year.
Every year under Turner’s guidance the Chargers have appeared in fewer and fewer playoff games, culminating in a complete absence from the playoffs for the first time in five years. Coincident to that, the Chargers also failed to win the AFC West title for the first time in five years as well.
All that will change this year.
Turner will produce a winner this year or face the firing squad. His job on the line, I believe Turner has taken on a completely new perspective with his coaching style. Gone will be the old, conservative, predictable coach—replaced with a new aggressive and creative one.
With a newfound sense of urgency, Turner will finally vanquish the demons of his team's perennially slow starts. This year, the Chargers will jump out of the gate and lead the division wire-to-wire.
Turner’s metamorphosis will help propel the Chargers back to the top of the AFC West by winning games they would have otherwise lost and delivering blowouts in what would have been close-fought contests in the past.
Free Agents Make the Defense Nastier
Takeo Spikes hits Randy McMichael.
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Along with the best offense in the league, San Diego also sported the NFL’s top-ranked defense yet still managed to miss the playoffs.
Yes, the Chargers defense was overrated last year
They may have given up the fewest yards overall, but they were 10th in the league in points allowed.
When it came to red zone defense, the Chargers were as soft as a steamed Twinkie.
This year, general manager AJ Smith broke away from his normally abstinent stance on signing high-profile free agents and opened the checkbook. He specifically targeted a certain type of defensive player—those with pugnacity.
Both inside linebacker Takeo Spikes and strong safety Bob Sanders will bring an air of nastiness to the defense that the Chargers have been sorely lacking.
At a minimum, these two hard-hitting players will make the Chargers a bit less comfortable for the opposition ball carriers. At their best, these players will instill a smash-mouth, no-nonsense attitude throughout the Chargers defense that will make the Bolts deserving of a top ranking.
The Chargers Are the Strongest Team in a Weak Division
Larry English wraps up Darrius Heyward-Bey
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After slipping up last year and losing out to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chargers are hungry to retake their rightful position atop the AFC West. The Chargers are the most balanced team in the division; no other team even comes close.
The Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders were ranked first and second in rushing offense last year, but were ranked 30th and 23rd respectively in passing offense. Oakland has a great pass defense, but they are anemic stopping the run while Kansas City’s defense is mediocre at best in both areas.
To top it off, neither team has an established quarterback nor can they challenge the Chargers this year in any way. The Raiders may have swept the division last year, but that won't happen again.
As for the Denver Broncos, with Kyle Orton, they are the only other team in the AFC West besides the Chargers with a quality quarterback. Unfortunately, that is all they can boast as their running game is virtually non-existent and their defense was the worst in the NFL.
All three of these teams are still rebuilding while the Chargers are a complete team. Without a doubt, the Chargers are head and shoulders above their competition and it will show as one-by-one, the pretenders fall out of contention.
Special Teams Just Can’t Be as Bad as Last Year
Mike Scifres has his punt blocked.
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Perhaps the single biggest reason for the Chargers fall from grace last season was their abysmal special teams play.
It must be said that the malaise that afflicted the Chargers special teams in 2010 couldn’t have really been all coach Steve Crosby’s fault. After all, he has one of the best resumes of any special teams’ coach in the league and received the 2007 Special Teams Coach of the Year award.
When your unit fails as miserably as his did, someone is going to take the fall.
And so, Rich Bisaccia was brought in to replace the now out-of-favor Crosby. With Bisaccia, the Chargers have a new coach, new personnel and a whole new outlook.
There is simply no way the Chargers will lose as many games this year due to special team gaffs as they did last year. Mathematically, the odds against it are simply overwhelming.
Among all the other reasons, re-establishing a respectable special teams unit alone is reason enough to see the Chargers back atop the AFC West this season.