Norv Turner and the Chargers should coast to another AFC West title.
The San Diego Chargers http://www.donbest.com/nfl/rosters/afc/san-diego-chargers/ are a perennial title contender and under head coach Norv Turner have either won a postseason game or finished the regular season with 12 wins. Practically every team in the league would die for a 12-win season and an occasional trip to the playoffs.
But that’s not good enough for Chargers fans who have grown tired of the “close but no cigar” act, and feel that either the team gets over the hump this year or drastic changes be made. Not surprisingly, ownership doesn’t agree.
In 2009, “Team Tease” rolled through the NFL posting a 13-3 record (11-5-1 against the spread). That earned San Diego a first-round bye and home-field advantage against the Jets in the divisional round. The Chargers were rested and favored by 7 ½ points to move into the AFC title game.
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But a funny thing happened on the way to Indianapolis. Quarterback Philip Rivers got picked twice and kicker Nate Kaeding missed three field goals as the Jets stunned the Chargers, 17-14. It had happened again, another splendid regular season spoiled by another early postseason exit.
Normally it takes teams weeks if not longer to get over such a devastating loss, but not the Chargers who rewarded Turner with a new three-year contract the next day.
So here we go again. The Chargers are once again favored to be a serious player in the Super Bowl, but it remains to be seen if this is the year they finally reach the next level. San Diego is listed at 10/1 to win Super Bowl XLV, 11/2 to unseat Indy as the AFC champs and a whopping minus 333 to walk away with the AFC West title.
I’m still looking for a futures prop bet on when and where the Chargers next postseason flame out takes place. I’ll be all over that one.
The Chargers on Offense
The Chargers' bread and butter is the passing game which ranked fifth in the NFL last season. Rivers is one of the best young passers in the game, and his toughness and leadership are unquestioned. He threw for 4,254 yards in 2009 with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and he has also had the third best passer rating at 104.4.
Last season, the Chargers led the league with 67 passes of 20 yards or more. Not surprisingly San Diego posted an 11-5 record to the 'over.'
He’s got a trio of big, athletic receivers at his disposal including Vincent Jackson who received a three-game suspension for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy. Jackson had 68 catches for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns. He’ll be eligible to return Oct. 3 against Arizona.
Malcolm Floyd, who had 45 grabs in 2009, is another threat.
The most exciting and productive of the Chargers receivers is tight end Antonio Gates. The former Kent State basketball star had 79 receptions for 1.157 yards.
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Running back Darren Sproles was a yardage machine for the Bolts gaining a combined 2,323 yards and eight touchdowns as a rusher and receiver. He was also San Diego’s leading kickoff and punt returner. Sproles split time with LaDainian Tomlinson in '09, but he’ll be the main man this season with LT gone to New York.
Rookie RB Ryan Matthews figures to be Tomlinson’s long-term replacement, and he’ll see plenty of action this year.
The Chargers on Defense
The Chargers defense ranked 11th in scoring average, allowing 20 points per game, and 11th in total yards allowed per game with 209.2. Shawn Merriman and Luis Castillo has their once promising careers shot down by knee injuries, but both players should to be in the starting lineup in Week 1.
Shaun Phillips was the unquestioned big-play maker for the Chargers with seven sacks and seven forced fumbles.
Keep an eye on kicker Nate Kaeding, the postseason choke artist whose 0-for-3 field goal disaster against the Jets is still talked about today. He’s arguably the least popular Chargers player since Ryan Leaf, and has become of the butt of jokes making the rounds on the internet. I’ll share a couple of the cleaner ones.
- Did you hear the one about Nate Kaeding? He tried to shoot himself but the bullet was wide right.
- Did you hear Nate Kaeding tried to swallow a bottle of sleeping pills last night? He “choked” on the first three.
For Kaeding’s sake, one can only hope the Chargers win a playoff game or three this season.
Consider their fifth straight division title a lock. However, beyond that it’s anyone’s guess. Can Rivers and his receivers stay healthy enough to make a serious run at the AFC crown? Will Kaeding, who is the league’s all-time leader in FG accuracy, ever regain his confidence in key situations?
One thing we do know is that the window of opportunity could be closing for the Chargers,