Next to death and taxes, the Chargers winning in December under Norv Turner and behind Philip Rivers was one of the safest bets one could make. Unfortunately, like death and taxes, watching the Chargers get steamrolled by the Raiders for the second time this season is something I would not wish upon my worst enemy.
The Chargers entered Sunday’s game against the Raiders on a high having won their last four games, the most recent being a dominating performance against the Indianapolis Colts. Their top-ranked offense and defense seemed to be hitting on all cylinders, as it does every season around this time of the year. In contrast, the Raiders had been brought back to earth in consecutive smack-downs at the hand of the Steelers and Dolphins. All signs pointed to the Chargers winning their second game against a division opponent and essentially eliminating the Raiders from playoffs contention. That is, at least until kickoff, when the Chargers played as if they were filming one of those NFL Play 60 commercials.
Give credit to the Raiders, as they looked like a far superior team in most aspects of yesterday’s game. They ran the ball with impunity, their defense was much more physical than the Chargers offense, and Jason Campbell, who is still a question mark throwing the ball, made like David Copperfield on more than one play-action play- now you see the ball, now you don’t. No play sums up the Chargers’ day better than when the Raiders faced 3rd-and-1 in the 4th quarter after the Chargers had brought the game back within 8-points. On that play, the Chargers defense was made to look like fools on a play-action pass that everyone believed was a rush (Chargers defenders were actually celebrating their savvy run-stopping abilities), but ended up being a long pass completion that soon led to another Raiders’ score.
We could spend a lot of time breaking down the various ways that the Chargers lost yesterday’s game, but we will save that for another column. The fact is that the Chargers’ talent has now been matched- or possibly surpassed- by other teams within their division. There are a lot of reasons for it, but you can’t call the AFC West a bad division any longer. You can no longer match-up against an AFC West opponent and expect to win behind a lackluster performance. Unfortunately, the Chargers seem to be learning that lesson a little too late.
With their postseason hopes now best-placed somewhere between “slim” and “none”, this week’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is truly a must-win game. Realistically, the Chargers have to win each of their remaining four games to have a shot at the playoffs. They also need the Raiders and the Chiefs to lose another game (assuming a Chiefs’ loss this week- hardly a safe assumption). The Chargers have been saved by miracle endings to a season before, so start saying your prayers because the Chargers may need some divine intervention.
Can the Chargers win-out and hang on to their playoff hopes this season? Will the Raiders and Chiefs lose again this season to give the Chargers a chance to squeeze into another division title? Sound off and share your thoughts here!
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