In last week's game against the broken Chiefs who seem to be on their own version of the Trail of Tears, the Chargers looked like a playoff team again. Has San Diego righted the ship or are the Chiefs simply that bad?
The Chargers have shown improvement in one significant area: run defense. I might be the only one, but I'd like to sing the praises of defensive tackle Ian Scott. On multiple third and short downs and one 4th and short, Scott blew up the middle not allowing the Chiefs to get any push. He was pulled back to the squad two weeks ago after being cut by the team after training camp. Presumably, he wasn't in perfect game shape even last week, but look to see if he can continue to clog the middle and stay in the game longer as his stamina improves. If the Chargers are to have any chance this year, they need someone to stand up in the middle and it might just be Mr. Scott.
Another big difference in the run defense was the stellar play of inside linebacker/human missile Tim Dobbins. With 11 solo tackles and an interception, he had the game of his career. Replacing the injured Kevin Burnett, who just couldn't match his strong play in the preseason in the regular season, Dobbins seems to be an upgrade. Dobbins and Scott, with some more aggressive blitz packages involving the safeties, may just be the mix the Chargers need to get their run defense out of the cellar and off the field on third down.
Today look for the Chargers to stack the box to stop the run and attempt to force Raiders' QB JaMarcus Russell to beat them (he can't). This game will actually be a good test for both the offensive and defensive lines, who were manhandled in the first game between these teams. The Chargers should win this one going away, but can they also show a trend of improvement in the stoutness of their offensive and defensive lines?
Also, LT had a couple nice lanes and runs last week. Can he and the offensive line put together another performance showing improvement? If so, this team will have a good chance of getting back into the playoffs.
San Diego will need a bit of luck too though, so fans should be watching those other teams in contention for the AFC Wildcards over the next few weeks.
Today? It all depends on the Raiders. Have they quit after a 37-0 drubbing by the Jets last week? Each time it seems they have, they come back with a strong performance. I would expect so out of their sheer dislike of the Chargers.
San Diego 31, Oakland 16 (but it will seem closer than this)