Fantasy Football News

Thursday, November 1, 2012

No Panic Button for Chargers: Slow Start in San Diego Follows Yearly Pattern

Just hours away from a Thursday night primetime match-up with AFC West rival Kansas City, the 2nd place San Diego Chargers (3-4) may find themselves in a must-win situation.

At 1-6, the Chiefs are virtually out of playoff contention as we approach Week 9 in the NFL, especially considering the Broncos and Peyton Manning appear to be heating up. The Chargers, however, find themselves in the heat of the race for the division title.

Philip Rivers' offense got off to a quick start to the season, beginning the season at 3-1 (including a 37-20 victory over these same Chiefs) with the lone loss coming to the still-undefeated Falcons. On defense, San Diego limited opponents to 17.8 points/game while putting up 25.0.

But since that Week 4 victory over KC, the Chargers have dropped three straight games, including a devastating 35-24 loss to Denver three Mondays ago and a 7-6 loss to the Cleveland Browns just last Sunday.

There didn't appear to be any reason for concern when the New Orleans Saints knocked off the Bolts by one touchdown in the beginning of October, but after blowing a 24-point halftime lead to the Broncos the following week, concern started building up.
To make things worse, the Chargers failed to re-group following the bye week and failed to put the ball into the end zone against a team (the 2-6 Browns) that has allowed the 4th-most yards, 10th-most points and 4th-most passing TDs in the entire league.

It's not like the Chargers didn't have run support against Cleveland, either. Running back Ryan Mathews, who, by the way, has finally appeared to be fully recovered from the broken collarbone suffered in August, ran for 95 yards on 24 attempts. But the struggling Rivers managed to complete just over half of his passes for 154 yards.

San Diego's 9th-best scoring defense and 8th-best total yardage defense did its job against rookie signal caller Brandon Weeden and the Browns, limiting them to just 250 total yards and one Trent Richardson touchdown. But Rivers failed to get anything going in terms of touchdown drives and two Nick Novak field goals is all San Diego came away with.

It's been clear that added pressure and lack of a true No. 1 receiver has really hurt the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback thus far in 2012. But, there's certainly a silver lining when it comes to Rivers' and San Diego offense's slow start: it can be overcome, and overcome rather quickly.

Ever since taking over the full-time starting role with the Chargers in 2006, the Bolts have struggled to pull away with a division lead through the first 7 games of the season. In fact, they're usually right around the current pace in terms of winning percentage. Just take a look:

Chargers' year-by-year records (thru first 7 games) since 2006: 5-2, 4-3, 3-4, 4-3, 2-5, 4-3, 3-4.
Total record (thru first 7 games) from 2006-12: 25-24 in seven seasons (average per year: 3.6-3.4)

How many postseason appearances over those 7 seasons? Four. With three double-digit win totals.
When it comes to Philip Rivers' numbers, everyone should be aware of his December/January breakout. Here's a look at his career regular season stats from September-November, compared with his December stats:

Pre-December: 77 games, 42-35 record, 245.0 yards/game, 1.6 TDs/game, 0.9 INTs/game
December/January (Regular season only): 31 games, 27-4 record (undefeated in January), 53 TDs, 18 INTs; 99.9 rating in Dec., 100.7 rating in Jan.

As a whole, San Diego's offense just plays better December football thanks in part to Rivers' elevated play. So, before you start rule the Chargers out of the race out Wes, keep in mind that Rivers is bound to turn this one around and improve on his current 82.4 rating (tied for his career-low as regular starter).

Despite being without top receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal tonight (both inactive due to injury), San Diego's quest for its first postseason appearance since '09 begins with a victory over Kansas City.

Moral of the story: Never rule out the Chargers.

Note: We do not own the above images (borrowed from zimbio.com). No copyright infringement intended.

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