Let's not beat around the bush here. Peyton Manning is 1st in DVOA, 1st in DYAR, 1st in overall grade at Pro Football Focus, and only second in QBR because Josh McCown and the Dallas Cowboys spent Monday night breaking that metric. At 37 years old, Peyton is, without a doubt, the best quarterback in the league in 2013.
That's half of the equation. That's half of the reason to be scared. The other half is that the San Diego Chargers have the worst pass defense in the league this season, and maybe in quite some time, on Football Outsiders and PFF.
So, what we have is maybe the greatest quarterback of all time, having maybe his greatest season ever, matched up against one of the worst pass defenses he has even seen. I know he won't have Wes Welker, but he'll still have Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas (3 touchdown catches vs. SD last month) and Julius Thomas (1 long touchdown catch vs. SD last month) to throw to. That seems like plenty enough to put up 35+ points on this Chargers defense.
If you've never read it, take some time to go through Malcolm Gladwell's famous New Yorker piece detailing how David can beat Goliath. When we detail "David strategies", which we do often, we're referring to that piece.
The great thing about David strategies is that they can level out the playing field between a dominant team like the Denver Broncos and an average team like the San Diego Chargers by adding a little luck into the equation and hoping it breaks the Chargers way.
Some of the easier to spot David strategies in football include:
- An onside kick
- A fake punt
- Going for it on 4th down in opposing territory
The idea, when facing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, should be that Nick Novak doesn't exist. If Mike Scifres could handle kickoffs, I'd actually be pushing for Novak to be inactive in this game (not really, but kind of). No team is even going to win against the 2013 Broncos with field goals. In fact, you'll need to score at least 4 touchdowns to have a chance at victory.
Now, David strategies should be something in the "Chargers will win" post, as something that gives San Diego a fighting chance. However, Mike McCoy isn't exactly the type to get talked out of field goals.
On November 10, 2013, the Chargers lost to the Broncos by 8 points. Earlier in that game:
- McCoy decided to kick a FG on 4th & 1 from the Broncos' 8 yard line.
- McCoy decided to kick a FG on 4th & 8 from the Broncos' 22 yard line.
- McCoy decided to kick a FG on 4th & 11 from the Broncos' 19 yard line. Novak missed that one.
The Chargers got 6 points out of those 3 opportunities near the end zone. If they had gone with David strategies and gone for it instead, they could've had as many as 21 and likely would've had at least 7. Either way, those FGs weren't going to do anything but make the final score seem closer than the game actually was.
Short Week/First Year Head Coach
This isn't really a mark against Mike McCoy. Being a head coach of an NFL franchise is difficult, and it's one of those jobs that you can really only learn how to do it through trial and error. I've seen some promising things in terms of Mike learning from his mistakes in his first year, but I've been keeping my eye out for him having to deal with situations for the very first time.
For instance, I warned everyone about the Chargers' bye week. Unless you've had a few years to figure out what works, especially with this group of players/leaders, it's almost impossible to figure out how much freedom to give the team and coaches during the off week. As Nick pointed out after the fact, McCoy swung and missed at it this year and the team went 1-4 in their first five games after the bye.
Now we have another first. Mike McCoy's first Thursday game. He's had a couple of Monday night games that resulted in somewhat-short weeks heading into the next game, but nothing like this.
Somehow, McCoy has to figure out how to give his guys rest/reward for their big win over the Giants on Sunday, while also getting them prepared to play the best team in the league in just 3 days.
I'm not saying he can't do it, just that it's not something that he can rely on his experience for. This is new territory for McCoy. How his team performs in tonight's game will go a long way towards determining how he handles the super-short weeks in the future.