Ten Keys To Chargers' Success in 2011

The Chargers have a good team; no one can deny that. Are they good enough to regain the top of the AFC West division, and legitimately compete for a Super Bowl berth? Only time will tell.

The measure of the Chargers success on recent years has not been a division championship. At this stage in the careers of Philip Rivers, Norv Turner, and AJ Smith, it’s all about the Super Bowl. To have the best chance at playing in Indianapolis in February, there are a number of things the Chargers will need to focus on this season. Some of the keys to the season are pretty obvious, while others are not talked about, but could make or break their success in the 2011 season.

1. Play special teams…obviously
Just to get this one out of the way, the Chargers’ special teams units have to perform better in 2011 to have a shot at even making the playoffs. That shouldn’t be hard to do, because it would be nearly impossible to have a worse special teams performance than they had last season.

2. Stop the run
Over half of their losses in 2010 came against some of the top-ten rushing teams in the league. If you can’t stop the run, Rivers has less time to do what he does best- score.

3. Be a league leader in scoring
Last season, the Chargers ranked second in scoring, so this by itself is not enough to guarantee you any success. But in a normal season, the Chargers would have coasted into the playoffs with that type of performance. If the offense continues to perform this year, the Chargers will be able to beat any team in the league.

4. Keep Mike Tolbert fresh
For all we know, Ryan Mathews could be a dominant running back in the league for years to come. A lot of that has to do with Mathews, and a lot of that has to do with team’s ability to dominate the line of scrimmage. Until Mathews proves he can carry the load, the Chargers need a healthy Tolbert, especially late in the season when you want to control the clock and wear a team down. With a few exceptions, big men tend to wear down quickly. Keeping Tolbert fresh early will give you more options to use him later in the season.

5. Win the turnover battle
Another obvious one- it’s hard to win when you turn the ball over, and it’s easier to win when you take the ball away from your opponent. They sucked at this last year, they have to be better this year.

6. Win at home
In my estimation, the Chargers should be no worse than 6-2 at home, and legitimately could go 7-1 (or better). A strong performance at home would make a few losses on the road less meaningful.

7. Keep Bob Sanders off the field
I want to see Sanders laying out opposing running backs and tight-ends as much as anyone, but I would rather see him do that in the post season, not the regular season. If history tells us anything, we know that Sanders has some trouble staying healthy. Playing him sparingly in the regular season is the best shot at keeping him healthy when you need him the most.

8. Rest Antonio Gates
Similarly to the Sanders situation, Gates has his own health concerns. As much as it hurts your fantasy football teams, I don’t care if Gates leads tight ends in receptions and touchdowns this year. Obviously you have to play him in close games, because he is a game-changer. But if the Chargers have a solid lead, get him the heck out of the lineup.

9. Protect the QB
Fans seem very divided regarding the play of the Chargers’ offensive line. They are either the strongest unit in the league, or they couldn’t block your grandma, dead or alive. All I know is that in 2010 the Chargers gave up 38 sacks last season, which was no better, if not worse, than 21 other teams in the league. Their pass protection, along with that of the backs and tight ends, has to be a lot better this year.

10. Play with a chip on your shoulder
We say it every preseason, that this is their year, that the Chargers are motivated by past failures and are ready to take the next step. Well, they didn’t even make the playoffs last year. If that doesn’t piss you off, than what will? The Chargers are not a perfect team. Luckily, no one else has a perfect team either. The fans are tired of the talk, and are tired of watching their team sleepwalk through half of the season. If the Chargers are tired of falling short, stop playing like a playoff berth is presumed, and start playing like you want a ring, starting in week 1, and in each and every game after that.

Do you have a key to the Chargers' season that I missed? Comment below and share your wisdom with us!

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September 7, 2011

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