Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Chargers 2010 Preview

The Chargers will win their division by a lesser margin than last year, but once again go to the playoffs, this time with a 12-4 or 11-5 record. Everyone knows the AFC West is weak, but at some point one of the other teams is going to put together a string of success to challenge San Diego. AJ Smith seems strangely complacent, adding only role players and letting Pro Bowlers sit out. The hungry teams on the outside have a way of sneaking up on the complacent, who realize their powers have diminished only when it's too late. It almost happened last year with Denver. I don't think it will happen this year, but AJ seems willing to risk mediocrity in the present, rather than get into "uncomfortable" contracts with the a new Collective Bargaining Agreement being negotiated next year.

Unless Shawne Merriman regains his old form (which isn't looking likely at this point with his immediate gimpiness upon returning to camp) or one or more of the younger guys like Larry English, Darrell Stuckey or Cam Thomas start dominating, this team will mostly likely be bounced out in an early round of the playoffs.

The defense hasn't shown it can be stout enough against the strongest rushing teams, especially in January when it counts. Weddle and Gregory just don't have the physical prowess. The tackles in the middle are inexperienced, and Cesaire and Castillo are just "guys" in there, not adding much special to the mix. Stephen Cooper is a very strong middle linebacker and leader, but he needs more help. Burnett, at the other middle linebacker position is athletic, but not stout against the run. A team that can play solid pressure defense and run the ball will be able to control the clock, keeping Rivers and company off balance and off the field.

Ryan Mathews should have a good year. The guy just looks amazingly strong, fast and determined. He leaves everything out on the field though and doesn't dodge any big hits. An injury to him would be devastating. He' the only running back in San Diego that will make this offensive line look passable.

Phillip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and should have a great year. He continues to improve and this year folks may start murmering about his ability to go to Canton. However, his big play ability will be limited by the lack of a dominant deep route running receiver. None of Vincent Jackson's replacements have the speed, strength and size. Malcolm Floyd is tall, but not as fast, and he gets out-muscled on some jump balls. The passing game will have to rely even more on the magical Antonio Gates, who can seems able to handle any challenge or any pass.

Here's the game by game prediction:

9/13 SD @ KC: This is a dangerous game as the Chiefs and their fans will be pumped up in the desperate hope of not being horrible again this season. With the addition of former Patriots' offensive and defiensive coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crenel (they should rename themselves the Western Patriots), look for the Chiefs to try any crazy thing to get a win. In the end, talent will win out and so will San Diego.

9/19 JAC @ SD: The Chargers should roll in their home opener against the Jaguers, who are still searching for a franchise quarterback, and may technically be in "rebuilding" mode.

9/26 SD @ SEA: Speaking of rebuilding, Pete Carroll jumped the sinking USC ship just in time, but this team has been on the downward slide and Carroll hasn't proven he can succeed in the NFL, although one could argue USC was a quasi-professional team. Chargers win.

10/3 ARI @ SD Arizona should beg Kurt Warner to emulate the classless Farvre and make a tearful heroic return from retirement. It's the only chance they have. I can't believe they let linebacker Karlos Dansby go last year. The guy was a vicious part of their defense. Chargers win.

10/10 SD @ OAK Going to the Black Hole is never fun. I'm not predicting the Raiders to be great, but they should be improved with the addition of a real QB. The Raiders will be pumped up for this one and expose the Chargers' weak run defense. Chargers lose. Fans question the loss of Jackson and McNeill.

10/17 SD @ STL St. Louis is rebuilding. San Diego wins easy.

10/24 NE @ SD Belichick is a football genius and finds a way to expose San Diego's weaknesses on defense. Chargers lose. Fans wonder loudly if the Chargers can compete with the elite teams.

10/31 Ten @ SD The strong running defensive minded Titans are just the type of team to give San Diego trouble. Chargers lose. Fans wonder even more loudly if "the window" has closed...blame AJ.

11/7 SD @ HOU Some are predicting Houston to be up and comers into the elite. I don't believe it yet. They are cursed until they aren't. Chargers win.

11/22 DEN @ SD Denver is still a mess. They will fall apart further this year and their immature baby of a coach will be fired. Chargers win.

11/28 SD @ IND Indianapolis may be predicted to win the Super Bowl again this year, but they are the perfect match up for the Chargers. This is the one team that can't out muscle San Diego. Chargers win.

12/5 OAK @ SD The Raiders may have beat San Diego in the Black Hole, but they still aren't ready to compete on the road. Their head coach isn't sophisticated enough to out-scheme Norval at home. Chargers win.

12/12 KC @ SD The Chiefs just need better players. Chargers win.

12/16 SF @ SD The Chargers may have more "skill" players, but the Singletary led Niners play smashmout football, push San Diego around, and win a close one. Fans worry about the defense going into the playoffs.

12/26 SD @ CIN The Bengals looked great last year. This year? They implode by this time. Chargers win.

1/2 SD @ DEN Denver will be out of contention by this time and the Chargers will be positioning for the playoffs. Chargers win.

Unless something changes or AJ makes some magical trades to bring a couple difference making players, the Chargers will disappoint again this year in the playoffs, likely falling victim to a tougher team that plays stout defense and is hitting on all cylinders.

All that being said, get to the playoffs and anything can happen. Maybe Rivers and Gates can will the team to a Super Bowl. I'll be watching.

Look for my Chiefs pre-game analyisis this weekend. Happy football season everyone.

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