Throughout the Norv Turner era, the San Diego Chargers have been favored to win the AFC West almost every year. 2012 is a little bit different as the Chargers have made a glutton of changes and the addition of Peyton Manning to the Broncos has made Denver the favorites.
Instead, the Chargers head into the 2012 season with lowered expectations and no spotlight, which might be a good thing. Up first are the Oakland Raiders, who are also a team in transition.
For the Chargers, there are some very basic things that need to happen for them to win on the road in the Black Hole on Monday night. For starters, they’ll have to find a way to protect quarterback Philip Rivers – even though starting left tackle Jared Gaither is out of the lineup. Secondly, the Chargers will need at least some semblance of a rushing attack even though Ryan Mathews is out for the game.
If the Chargers can’t accomplish either, they need not look far as to what will happen. Putting the game solely on Rivers’ arm won’t work and we saw that last season when he threw a career-high 20 interceptions. However, if they are able to protect him and get some balance, they should have the better of the two offenses on Monday night.
The good news is the Chargers appear to have improved their defense over the offseason. First-round pick Melvin Ingram looks like a stud and the Chargers are hoping that he, Shaun Phillips and maybe Larry English can provide the pressure necessary in this 3-4 scheme.
These two teams are evenly matched, even though the Chargers are a one-point underdog on the NFL odds. They just need to finally play to their potential – something they’ve frequently failed to do in the Turner era. Maybe heading into the season without the spotlight and without the national pressure to perform will allow them to finally do that.
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