Don't Count LT and the San Diego Chargers Out Just Yet, Again

Eric BennettContributor IDecember 30, 2008

Everyone has counted the San Diego Chargers out all season long.

Late during the Kansas City game, I tuned out to throw my head into my pillow in frustration at a season go array. A season that began with the Chargers favored to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, even more so after Tom Brady's injury and Peyton Manning's offseason knee surgery, was about to end 12 games in.

Heck, during that same game, some of the Chargers personnel might have already began to map out their expenses for possible vacation plans in January.

But all of that is out the door now, just like the Broncos' playoff chances, Mike Shanahan's job, Ed Hoculi's blown call in the second game of the season, and every one of the Chargers' struggles this year.

Everything is on the table for San Diego to take now. The Chargers erased their curious yet terrible 8-8 season, highlighting their much hated rival's historic collapse, and are seeded at No. 4 for the playoffs.

The Chargers are on a hot streak right now, everyone knows it, but can they replicate last season's upset playoff victory over the Colts this season while entering the playoffs with as a team with a non-winning record for the first time ever.

The consensus seems to be "No, wait, the Chargers are in the playoffs?"

The Chargers now know what it feels like to have virtually no chance after starting this year's campaign 4-8. They played their best football down the stretch but also played well against their toughest opponents this season; Carolina, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New England  and Miami.

The Chargers lost on a last-second touchdown pass against Carolina, destroyed the Patriots, lost at Pittsburgh by one, lost to a last-second field goal against the Colts and lost by one score against the Dolphins.

All these losses occurring while Ted Cotrell was the defensive coordinator and when San Diego was no where near as in sync as they are now.

San Diego also had a depleted roster when they won against the Colts and lost by one score to the Patriots last postseason. Phillip Rivers was very banged up and LT and Antonio Gates were nonexistent.

Rivers is playing at a MVP quality level, and L.T. and Gates are feeling at least much better than they did last post season.

The Colts' defense hasn't been tested since their last matchup with the Chargers in Week 12. Rivers picked apart the Colts' defense, completing 24 of 31 passes with two touchdowns and a passer rating of 126.8.

In Week 16, David Garrard passed for 329 yards against the Colts, one of his two 300-yard performances of the year, but came short in getting the W. The Colts looked maybe mediocre against the worst team in the history of football, the Lions, winning by 10.

The Chargers' defense is playing with more intensity lately and the Chargers' offense will prove to be too much for the over-hyped Colts at Qaulcomm Stadium.

Darren Sproles will hurt the Colts one way or another, receiving, rushing, or returning, adding a spark to the Chargers run game with L.T. ailing a groin injury. Rookie Jacob Hester will see a good dosage of runs too if L.T. is hurting, adding another pair of solid, reliable hands to the a potent pass offense.

Vincent Jackson is playing just as well as any receiver in the AFC while the Colt's Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark are having down years. The key will obviously be the Colts defense since we all know Manning will show up to play and keep his offense on the field with key decision-making.

But come Saturday, don't be too quick to count the Chargers out, despite what experts are saying, even if the Chargers fall behind, they have come a long way, much like the Colts, to get to this position and they are not ready to lounge and enjoy the weather just yet.

It all began with their fight back against a bad Kansas City team four weeks ago, returning some much needed confidence and hope to the players and coaching staff, it will end with the Chargers playing for much more than a wild-card playoff game.