Remember after the Steelers game, when I pointed to my preseason predictions for hope in the future? I want to go back over them, revise them based off of the first 6 weeks of the season, and get an answer to the question that's plaguing all of us today: Do the Chargers still have a chance?
My predictions, and an answer to that question, are after the jump.
What Happened: Win (1-0)
Week 2 vs. Ravens
What Happened: Loss (1-1)
Week 3 vs. Dolphins
What Happened: Win (2-1)
Week 4 @ Steelers
What Happened: Loss (2-2)
Week 6 vs. Broncos
What Happened: Loss (2-3)
Week 7 @ Chiefs
Prediction: Win (3-3)
No change here. The Chiefs are one of the worst teams in the league. While I buy into the mystique of Arrowhead when the Chiefs are a good football team, I think it means nothing in their current state. This is a game where the Bolts' weakness (stopping the run) meets the Chiefs weakness (running the ball), so it should be a relatively easy victory.
Week 8 vs. Raiders
Prediction: Win (4-3)
The Raiders hung tough in Week 1 and even beat the Eagles last week, but they've been outscored 83-26 on the road this season (outscored 46-56 at home). Even if their defense plays well against the Chargers, Oakland's offense is so bad that the Chargers should have no problem out-pacing the Raiders at home.
Week 9 @ Giants
Prediction: Loss (4-4)
I'm still calling this a loss, but the Chargers have the right kind of team to defeat the Giants. Much like the Saints did, the Chargers have the ability to put up points in a hurry. If they can get an early lead and force the Giants to play catch-up with Eli Manning, the chances of victory are high. They could win this game, but I don't think they're beating both the Giants and Eagles.
Week 10 vs. Eagles
Prediction: Win (5-4)
The Eagles lost to the Raiders for two main reasons. One is that they don't typically play well when they travel to the west coast. The second, and more concrete reason, is that their offensive line is in shambles. Shawn Andrews is out for the season because he's crazy. Stacy Andrews is hurt, plus is busy (allegedly) hitting his girlfriend. Jason Peters went down with an injury early in the Raiders game, and Richard Seymour feasted on the weak left side of the Eagles' offensive line all game.
There's a good chance that four weeks from now the Eagles will still be struggling to field a decent offensive line. If the Chargers can take advantage of that, they stand a very good chance of winning the game.
Week 11 @ Broncos
Revised Prediction: Loss (5-5)
Here's what I got from Monday's game against the Broncos: they are better than the Chargers. No doubt about it. If both teams are healthy and on a neutral field, the Broncos win the majority of the games. They have a talented roster and fantastic coaching. Without a major injury or distraction, this will be a really tough game for the Chargers. Not to mention the Bolts will be coming off games against the Giants and Eagles, which means lots of traveling and potentially injuries because those are hard-hitting teams.
If the Chargers have any chance at making the playoffs, this tough three-game stretch will determine how far they'll go this season.
Week 12 vs. Chiefs
Prediction: Win (6-5)
Time for that late-season run to begin. This game isn't quite in December (Nov. 29), but the Chiefs aren't going anywhere this year.
Week 13 @ Browns
Prediction: Win (7-5)
Hello December! In my preseason predictions, I wrote this about the Browns game:
Hmmmm, now here's a hard team to read. New coach but from the same system as the old coach. Lots of talent on the team that flourished for one year and disappeared. I, for one, am a big Brady Quinn fan. His size, his arm strength, his accuracy and intelligence make him a great QB prospect. I really can't see any way that he doesn't burst out this year and put his name on the map with a great season unless he gets injured. Their defense is still a few pieces away and I don't know that James Davis from Clemson will help out Jamal Lewis as much as is needed. This game will be tougher than you think.
Boy, I was wrong. This will be an easy win. If Mangini is still the coach by Week 13, I'll be shocked. For the record, I still think Brady Quinn has a great future in the league but not in Cleveland. Here's to hoping he ends up anywhere but Oakland or Cleveland.
Week 14 @ Cowboys
Revised Prediction: Win (8-5)
The Cowboys are terrible. They have a better record than the Chargers, but their victories have come against Tampa Bay, Carolina and Kansas City. Their defense ranks dead last in yards allowed. They needed overtime to put away the Chiefs. Tony Romo has a TD/INT ratio of 3:2. The Cowboys remind me of the Giants, but with a defense that cannot compare. If you can get an early lead, you can eliminate their dynamic running game and force Tony Romo to try to win the game himself. That's a recipe for disaster for the Cowboys.
Week 15 vs. Bengals
Prediction: Win (9-5)
A week ago I might have changed this to a loss. However, without Antwan Odom Cincinnati's defense is neautured. Before Sunday they hadn't given up more than 249 passing yards in a game, and then Matt Schaub put up 385 yards on them without facing much of a pass-rush. I think this will be a competitive game and a Chargers win. I also think a lot of people around here will be talking about Rey Maualuga after this game. It's incredible that he dropped so far in the draft. He reminds me of Lofa Tatupu, but a harder hitter.
Week 16 @ Titans
Prediction: Win (10-5)
A Christmas game on the road, against a team that doesn't seem to belong in the NFL these days. You could argue that the Titans won't have anything to lose at this point, which makes them dangerous, but if the Chargers come to Tennessee with a four-game winning streak it will be tough to slow them down.
Week 17 vs. Redskins
Revised Prediction: Win (11-5)
The Redskins are melting down. We've been over this. This should be an easy victory and, like Mangini, I'd be shocked to see Zorn on the sidelines for this game. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Colt Brennan starting this game.
So.....11-5. Is it something to get excited about? Probably not, considering the Broncos are already 6-0. Could the Broncos lose 5 of their last 10 games? With games against the Ravens, Steelers, Giants, Colts and Eagles it's certainly a possibility. Will 11-5 be good enough to get a Wild Card spot in the playoffs? Again, it's possible, but there's really nothing the Bolts can do to control that. A win against the Broncos in Denver would present a pretty big shift in control of the AFC West though.
I think the Chargers will end up being 11-5 this season. That's an improvement over 8-8 last season. Whether they make the playoffs, and Norv keeps his job, may just be up to the rest of the AFC.