Philip Rivers has the highest completion percentage of any quarterback in the NFL, completing nearly 74% of his attempts.
The San Diego Chargers are in a good spot coming out of their bye week. They have won two straight games, against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, and Chad Henne and the Jaguars. The Chargers are above .500 and heading to Washington to take on Robert Griffin III and the 2-5 Redskins, who are better than their record indicates. At 4-3, the Bolts are sitting pretty in the 6th seed in the playoff hunt. They are doing much better than most people anticipated, and they are only getting better. Mike McCoy and the Chargers are a legitimate threat in the AFC, and here's why:
Philip Rivers is playing MVP caliber football:
Almost every single analyst and reporter thought that Philip Rivers was done. They thought he was too for gone after two abysmal seasons. They thought Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt might not be able to "fix" Rivers. Well we are almost at the halfway point, and Philip Rivers has proven all of them wrong. Mike McCoy's goal for Philip Rivers this season was to have him complete 70% of his passes. Well that goal is being achieved and exceeded so far this season. No other quarterback, not even Peyton Manning, has completed a higher percentage of their attempts than Rivers, who is at 73.9%. Rivers also has 2,132 yards and 15 touchdowns, to only 5 picks. He's on pace for a career year, and quite possibly an MVP year. Rivers has 3 400-yard games already this season, the most he has ever had in a single season. That also leads the entire NFL. Philip Rivers is back and more dominant than ever before. He's had ample time in the pocket, which leads me to my next point.......
The offensive line may just be the teams most improved unit:
Tom Telesco made a flurry of moves along the offensive line after he was hired. He signed King Dunlap, Chad Rinehart, and Rich Orhnberger. He drafted D.J. Fluker in the 1st round in this past draft. He brought in UDFA's, like Nick Becton. He and coach McCoy also hired Joe D'Alessandris to coach the offensive line, from the Bills staff, where he coached Chad Rinehart. Injuries decimated the Chargers offensive line last year, and they struggled to protect Philip Rivers. The injury bug bit again this season, multiple times, but this time the unit stepped up. The only starting lineman to not miss time is Nick Hardwick. D.J. Fluker is, at this point, playing like the best rookie lineman this year. Against the Jaguars, he shifted over to Rivers' blind side and still excelled. D.J. Fluker is a beast, and he could make his case for Offensive Rookie of the Year. Number 17 has only been sacked 11 times this year, and that is excellent to say the least. The line has also done a good job of opening up running lanes for Danny Woodhead, Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, and even Le'Ron McClain. Speaking of the running game........
All of San Diego's backs are contributing:
Danny Woodhead has more than filled the hole left by now-Saint Darren Sproles. Woodhead is averaging nearly 4 yards per carry, and has 40 receptions on the season, second on the team behind Antonio Gates. Woodhead also has 4 touchdowns, 3 receiving and 1 rushing. Ryan Mathews is starting to build up a had of steam. He is coming off back to back 100-yard games, and scored his first touchdown against Jacksonville. Ronnie Brown has also scored a touchdown. And Le'Ron McClain has done really well as a lead blocker. The Chargers are averaging 108.7 yards per game on the ground. That's good for 15th in the league. The balance on offense has helped Philip Rivers thrive. If Ryan Mathews keeps this up, he will save his job. He's finally producing solid numbers without putting the ball on the ground. He'll never be LaDainian Tomlinson, but he has a chance to be pretty good. He's running with power and conviction, things he lacked in the Norv Turner era.
The rookies are stepping up:
From D.J. Fluker, to Keenan Allen, to Manti Te'o. The rookies are playing really well, and that's a major part of this teams success. D.J. Fluker, like I said before, has been dominating for the most part, all season. He has been above average in pass protection, which was his one major knock coming out of Alabama. Pro Football Talk has Fluker one of just 4 first rounders with a positive grade through 8 weeks. The others are Dion Jordan, Sheldon Richardson, and Star Lotulelei. He's a flat out stud and will only get better. Keenan Allen is showing exactly why he was a projected 1st round player. He is making the tough catches over the middle and he's making spectacular catches all over the field. He is averaging a healthy 15 yards per catch, and has 26 receptions, tied for 3rd on the team. He has stepped up huge in Malcom Floyd's absence, and is growing into a solid number 1 receiver. He's quickly becoming one of Philip Rivers' favorite targets, He has good size and speed, and is a great route-runner. Manti Te'o, although he missed a few games and had a slow start, is helping a ton in the running game and he's showing he can play in space. Te'o has had some big hits as well. He lit up Terrelle Pryor a few weeks ago and he seems to always be around the ball when the whistle is blown. He may only have 17 total tackles, but he makes his presence known and felt. As these rookies continue to develop, this team will gradually improve.
Antonio Gates is a baaaad man again:
Antonio Gates has suffered unfortunate injuries for much of the past few seasons. It raised many questions about his durability and many wondered if he could ever perform like the Gates of old. Well. He's silenced the critics. He leads the team in receptions, with 42 catches. He has almost 500 yards, and he has a couple touchdowns. He is still Philip's favorite target, and he has stayed healthy. He is the matchup nightmare of old, and adding the young talented backs and receivers, the Chargers offense is turning into a force. If he stays healthy, I think the Chargers will definitely make the playoffs. If he ends up getting hurt and missing extended time, it'll be putting more pressure on Rivers to make plays.
The defense has kicked things up a notch:
The Chargers' defense struggled mightily early in the season. They helped in the Monday Night debacle against the Texans by giving up multiple first downs on 3rd and a mile, and not generating much of a pass rush. The next week Michael Vick threw for over 400 yards. But that is all in the past. The Chargers defense has not given up a touchdown since the Raider game a few weeks ago. The fact that they kept Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, and the Colts out of the endzone was extremely impressive. The Chargers have found their pass rush, and that's minus Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram. Corey Liuget has come into his own and Thomas Keiser has been a pleasant surprise. Larry English has even managed to get a sack and a half. As a team, the Bolts have racked up 20 sacks, but most of them have come in the past few weeks. Once Jarret Johnson, Donald Butler, and hopefully Melvin Ingram are healthy, this pass rush will be exponentially better.
Once this team gets fully healthy on both sides of the ball, things will get really interesting. With the young guns stepping up and the old guys playing lights out, there are no limits for this team. The whole team is playing confident and things are only going up. Tom Telesco and Mike McCoy are doing an excellent job.