Chargers and AFC West in 2010


It’s about time for some honesty. Not the Cherry Tree or Honest Abe kind, but the kind Norv Turner has been talking about for three years now; some defensive honesty. From the opposing defense that is.

For the last two years, too many of the defenses the Bolts have faced moved an extra defensive back into the secondary to replace the standard linebacker, and used the extra back to crowd Jackson, Gates, and Floyd and fill potential passing lanes. The Chargers haven’t given opposing teams much of a reason to play the run game honest, finishing last season ranked number 31 out of 32 teams in rushing production. Lacking a feature back that could command defensive honesty put more pressure on Rivers to produce.

Herein lies San Diego salvation: Phillip Rivers and Ryan Mathews. The fact that Rivers’ 8.8 yards per attempt last year without a feature back who could keep a defense honest, and Mathews who has posted a spectacular 4.9 yard per attempt so far in preseason games without starting left tackle Marcus McNeill, opposing teams will have to play straight up and not cheat one way or the other. Though stats by themselves can’t account for the back and forth of a hard-hitting NFL season, they are the best indicator of future performance we have, and a look at this fact is staggering; combine Rivers’ per throw average with Mathews’ per rush average and you get a fantastical 6.85 yard per play average! I hope you read that right, PER PLAY AVERAGE!

A fair bet for the chargers this season is a 12-4 record, good enough for a playoff birth and a possible first round bye.

A look at the other AFC West teams:

Chiefs: it’s a difficult thing to lay the groundwork needed to build a winning franchise and the Chiefs have done a great job in the last two years to do just that. With Todd Haley as head coach, Romeo Crennel, and Charlie Weis game planning, the preparation will be sound game-in and game-out and ready to put the product on the field. The product to build around is Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, and rookie safety Eric Berry. As solid a core group of young payers as any in the league, the Chiefs are still two years away from threatening a run at AFC West champs. Prediction; 6-10

Raiders: an upgrade at quarterback with Jason Campbell, and a potentially lethal defensive line, makes the Raiders better than the last three years, but not stable enough for the consistent play needed to succeed in the NFL. If Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy have solid years, look for the Raiders to win at least five games

Broncos: even if Ryan Clady can start by the first game of the season, that type of injury lingers and he wont be 100% until December. Kyle Orton is a competent quarterback but won’t be as productive without Brandon Marshall as a target. McDaniels is a solid head coach, a winner by nature, but the pieces just aren’t in place for a winning season. To sum up Denver’s chances: no Dumervil, no chance. 5-11

That’s right, Oakland may not be the basement of the AFC West any longer, but will duke it at with Denver.

The question to ask is not if the Chargers can get to the playoffs but can they succeed once there. Without McNeill and Jackson lining up by December, it’s hard to see them getting past the AFC championship game. Jackson is a good receiver, perhaps even very good, but Rivers doesn’t need him for the offense to move the way he wants it too (Yup, Rivers is that good); without McNeill though, a Lombardi is out of the question. Rivers can make any receiver better, and read defensive schemes as quick as any quarterback in the league, but unless his blindside is protected, the teams they’ll see in the playoffs will make them pay. This just might be the best chance at a Super Bowl run since 1994, and could vindicate coach Turner and his search for his elusive honesty.