1. The Chargers' defense will finish in the top-5
This offseason the Chargers defense underwent a major upgrade. The team added, among others, free agents Jared Johnson and Atari Bigby and top draft picks Melvin Ingram, Kendall Reyes, and Brandon Taylor. The defensive talent overall is a strong mix of young and experienced players. The defensive line is improved, the linebacker corp may be the best we have seen since 2006, and the defensive backs will greatly benefit from a stronger front seven. Consistently strong defenses are becoming a rarity in the NFL, so John Pagano could very well push this improved group of players into the top-5.
2. We have yet to meet their starting left tackle
Jared Gaither has shown no signs of returning to health, and I have no confidence that he will ever be the rock the Chargers need to secure Philip Rivers' blind spot...at least not this season. Undrafted rookie Mike Harris should get major props for not completely falling apart under the pressure of filling Gaither's large and little-used cleats, but he is not a 16-game solution, not this season. After Monday night's games, I fully expect the Chargers to sign a replacement left tackle who will end up getting the majority of the snaps this season.
3. Melvin Ingram will lead the league in sacks
Yeah, I have high hopes for the Bolt's first round draft pick. It's easy to think that Ingram could lead the team in sacks, but that's not very bold. What is bold, a definite possibility? Ingram, playing as a pass rushing specialist and getting a majority of snaps at outside linebacker, reaches double-digit sacks, leading the league in that category.
4. The Chargers do not win the division
Our Bolts have been on a downward slide for a couple of seasons now while their competition in the AFC West has greatly improved. Peyton Manning has made the Broncos serious contenders this season- just ask the Steelers- while the Chiefs have a lot of young talent waiting to take it to the next level. The Chargers took a step in the right direction this offseason, but I believe they need another solid draft to really contend for a Super Bowl championship. They could earn a wildcard playoff spot, but I don't think they win the division.
Perhaps this prediction is not that bold after all, but if it's true, the next one would be quite bold indeed...
5. This will not be Norv's last season
I'm predicting that the Chargers have a great season defensively, yet don't win the division, possibly not even making the playoffs. So why do I think that Norv is a lock to return in 2013? I am strongly of the opinion that this team's deficiencies fall largely on the shoulders of AJ Smith. Rivers loves Norv. The players (believe it or not) play for Norv. Dean Spanos fears change if the team remains competitive, and this team will be just competitive enough to keep the band together for one-more one-more year (no, I didn't stutter).
Am I crazy, or do you agree that this team is close but that this may not be their year? What are YOUR bold predictions for the Chargers in 2012? Sound off in the comments section below and let your voice be heard!
Follow Jeff Williams on Twitter: @JSWilliams75
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