In a division that is dominated by a revived undefeated Kansas City Chiefs franchise and a Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos team, the Chargers have become a solid albeit under the radar organization. Although their 4-3 record could hardly be considered impressive, it is their ability to win close games that makes their endeavors all the more intriguing. Between quarterback Phillip Rivers looking sharper than ever along with a solid rushing attack, the Chargers are a sleeping juggernaut that is simply waiting for the right time to unleash its true potential.
While Phillip Rivers has always been known as a fairly accurate and reliable passer, he hasn’t had a season quite as prolific or productive since the 2010 season when he through for over 4,700 yards and 30 touchdowns. Although Rivers still has some work to do if he hopes to eclipse his exceptional yardage record (he has currently thrown for 2,132 yards), his accuracy has not only improved drastically, it has reached unprecedented levels of prestige and excellence. Thus far, Rivers has completed 73.9% of his passes (his season best was 66% in 2010) and he as already thrown 15 touchdowns passes to only 5 interceptions. If Rivers continues at this rate of success, he has a chance to have one of if not the best statistical season of his career.
However, even with Rivers sensational performances, the Chargers also have a solid rushing attack that has been able to contribute points in critical situations. While the Chargers running backs may not be as explosive as some of the more adored rushers such as Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore, they at least provide their team with offensive flexibility. Between Ryan Matthews and Danny Woodhead, the Chargers have a dynamic running threat that they can use in short yardage situations or as a way to open up the play action pass for Rivers. With that being said, the Chargers lack of a big time rusher has been a hindrance to this teams success for some time. While Rivers is more than capable of picking up the slack offensively, he still needs to have a reliable back that can be clutch in close games.
Yet, the Chargers rushing abilities are not the singular source of this teams inconsistencies. While their defense isn’t necessarily terrible, it lacks the tenacity and quickness that teams like Kansas City and Baltimore have become heavily reliant on. Although the Chargers defense as a whole has improved to a certain extent (They allowed 28 and 30 points in the first two games, in their last five games they allowed a maximum score of 21), it isn’t very formidable and is prone to being inconsistent, especially against the pass (the Chargers have allowed 273.1 passing yards per game). With that being said, this defense has done just enough to allow their offense to put up points when they are needed most. If this defense can continue to work on it’s intimidation factor and defensive fundamentals, they have a chance to be at least above average, which is all this offensive charged team needs to get going.
Coming out of the BYE week, the Chargers will have a fairly difficult schedule that pits them against high-octane offenses. In their first two games, this Chargers defense will have to contend with RGIII and the ever-dangerous offensive weapon that is Peyton Manning. While the Chargers have the advantage of having an exceptional passer who can pick apart these defenses that have been underwhelming at best this season, their opponents also have prolific quarterbacks who can match if not exceed Rivers’ accomplishments. Although RGIII has been neutralized for the most part from game to game, Manning has looked like a quarterback who is still in the prime of his career. If the Chargers can take down the Broncos, it will not only be a huge morale victory for their struggling defense, it will finally put Rivers in conversation in terms of his status as an elite passer.
In the end, the Chargers are once again in limbo in terms of what the future holds for them. While their defense has been off to a rocky start, their passing game is looking better than ever and is the unquestionable key to Chargers chances of making the playoffs. If this team can continue to improve their inconsistencies while allowing Rivers to remain the underrated and deadly passer that he is, this team has a solid chance to surprise the nation as a wild card team that could go farther in the playoffs than most people think.