Twelve weeks and eight grueling losses later, Philip Rivers is cautiously optimistic about his team's chances the rest of the way.
"We've got to win them all and they've got to lose three of four," Rivers said after a home loss to Atlanta dropped the AFC West leading Broncos' magic number to two. "Can it happen? Sure, but we haven't shown the ability to be able to win four in a row."
In the wreckage that has been the Chargers' 2008 season, there's been little to smile about. Other than solid wins against the Jets and Patriots (who, quixotically—will probably make the playoffs,) San Diego's performance against the Raiders is the one that most reminds fans of previous seasons.
Coming behind from a double-digit deficit on the road, the Chargers handed the Raiders their tenth straight loss in the series and struck Head Coach Lane Kiffin's coffin with its final nail.
On Thursday night, the Chargers and Raiders square off once more, this time before a national audience.
For many Bolts, including Rivers, the game is an opportunity to reassess certain things against a historically tough opponent and begin the road towards 2009.
As I mentioned earlier this season, Rivers' numbers have been deceptive of late, as his fourth quarter turnovers and uncharacteristic inaccuracy in key moments have cost his team dearly.
Against Atlanta last Sunday, he failed to throw a TD pass for the second time in three games, and accounted for a safety after committing intentional grounding in the end zone.
This season has seen him regress in crunch time, and the reasons for it are frankly unclear. Is it his confidence? Is it his health? Is it both?
Rivers has looked shaky in the pocket, seemingly second-guessing his choices and underthrowing receivers in tight spots.
Rivers has not been especially hounded by opposing defenses, being sacked only 19 times in 12 games, which begs the question— is he hiding something from the team's medical staff? Looking uncomfortable in his delivery, Rivers tends to short-hop off his surgically repaired leg shortly before making a throw.
Despite never losing to the Raiders in his tenure, Rivers has been unimpressive historically, throwing four TD's and four INT's, with one fumble over the course of their meetings.
Oakland's defense is ranked eigth against the pass, which means Rivers probably won't get a free pass this week, either.
And now, perhaps in a twist of cruel fate, only two months after the Chargers buried Oakland's head coach and sent the Raiders spiraling to another losing season, the boys in Silver and Black have the chance to do the exact same thing to San Diego.
"We've got a shot," stated Rivers, probably reflecting on the bigger picture of the AFC West race. Well, for the first time in years—the Raiders also have a shot. To beat the Chargers.
Cry me a river.