Five Post Bye Week Predictions For The San Diego Chargers

As the Chargers prepare to kickoff their post bye week schedule against the New York Jets, Chargers fans have a lot to be happy about, and as much to be worried about. Their 4-1 record, good enough for first place in the AFC West, is about as good as most Chargers fans could have predicted before the start of the season. The injuries, red zone struggles, and poor showing defending the run are definitely areas of concern heading into week 7.

With 11-games left in the Chargers’ schedule, here are five predictions for the Bolts as they continue their charge to the playoffs.

The Chargers will continue posting wins. Frustratingly close wins. Throw your remote, curse at the TV kind of wins. Their defense has proven to be able to keep games close but has yet to dominate any opponent for four-quarters. The offense seems to be able to score at any moment, yet hasn’t proven to be the score-at-will offense we have seen in previous seasons. But if they can continue to find a way to win against tougher opponents, the fans will have to rally around them.

Philip Rivers will continue to have an off-season, at least by his standards. That being said, his off-season has still been pretty good based on yards and wins. But there seems to be something missing in Rivers’ play in the first five games. Blame it on the injury to his security blanket tight end, or blame poor blocking by his offensive line…whatever the reason, he has looked more pedestrian in 2011 than in seasons past. With Ryan Mathews stepping up big in the first five games, don’t expect the Chargers offense to rely strictly on Rivers’ arm. Turner likes to run the ball when the running game is working.

Gates will not be “healthy” in 2011. An offseason of rest did not heal his hurting right foot- why would a few extra weeks off in-season do the trick? So it’s going to be a continual balance of play and rest, play and rest. And that’s going to be good enough. I see Gates playing in key games over the next four or five games, and then getting a lot of rest until the end of the season, depending on how vital his participation will be to the playoff hopes of the team.

Ryan Mathews- MVP? Probably not. But he could get into the conversation if he can regain his health and continue doing what he’s been doing…namely getting better as the season progresses. Part of the reason why Rivers seems to be a little off this season is because of the balance being created with the running game. Mathews ranked 4th in the NFL in total yards entering week 6, and with rest over the bye week should be good to go this Sunday.

There is little the Chargers can do going forward to lose the AFC West. Barring some crazy unforeseen circumstances, like fielding the worst special teams unit in NFL history again, or losing both of your top quarterbacks, the Chargers will win the AFC West. The Raiders just lost their starting QB for the year, and have essentially no one backing him up. The Chiefs are trying to fight back from early-season stumbles but are missing too many key components from the team that won the division last season. And the Broncos are just not that good, although Tebow seriously scares me a little. He wins games.

At 4-1 in the AFC West, it’s pretty easy to predict another division championship at this point in the season. I’m more interested in how the team looks as they close in on the playoffs. Do they have enough depth to overcome all of the injury issues? Can they come together and start playing like a championship unit on offense and defense? Sound off below and make your predictions for the rest of the Chargers’ season.

Take a peak at my non-football column at 4thAndGoals.com

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October 17, 2011

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