The San Diego Chargers will lose their playoff game against the Denver Broncos

Justin Edmonds

Each week, we give fans of the San Diego Chargers three reasons to be pessimistic about the team's chances in their upcoming game. This week, the Chargers travel to Denver to take on the best team in the AFC, the Broncos.

Ryan Mathews

Nothing terrifies me more this week than the idea of the San Diego Chargers trying to beat the Denver Broncos without Ryan Mathews. In fact, every time I let myself think about it, all I see is an image of LaDainian Tomlinson standing on the sidelines of the AFC Championship Game with his helmet and coat on.

Despite the fact that he played about half of the game in the Chargers playoff win last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Mathews has been the single most important player on the team during this 5-game winning streak and is, undoubtedly, the most important player for this week's game in Denver. The Chargers will need him to win the time of possession battle and keep Peyton Manning off the field, much like they did when they gave Ryan 29 carries just four days after he carried the ball 29 times against the New York Giant.

The "good" news is that Mathews has yet to be ruled out for this game. The bad news is that he isn't practicing (yet) and has been seen in a walking boot. Can he power through the injuries enough to carry the ball 25+ times against the Broncos? I don't know.

Philip Rivers

I said it during the Bengals game, I've said it a few times during the regular season, and now I'll say it again: The Chargers offensive coaches are terrified of Philip Rivers.

They are so afraid of letting Rivers throw in a high-pressure situations because of his track record of turning the ball over by trying to do too much in past years, and rightfully so.

Last week, the Chargers forced a Bengals turnover near their own goal line with 1:47 left in the first half. They had nearly 2 minutes to show off their "2 minute drill". Instead...

1st and 10 at SD 11 R.Mathews right end pushed ob at SD 18 for 7 yards (R.Nelson). PENALTY on SD-A.Gates, Offensive Holding, 8 yards, enforced at SD 16. {Mathews credited with a 5 yard rush due to the penalty}
1st and 13 at SD 8 (Shotgun) R.Mathews left end to SD 9 for 1 yard (W.Gilberry).
Timeout #1 by CIN at 01:35.
2nd and 12 at SD 9 D.Woodhead left end to SD 10 for 1 yard (V.Burfict).
Timeout #2 by CIN at 01:31.
3rd and 11 at SD 10 (Shotgun) D.Woodhead right guard to SD 12 for 2 yards (J.Harrison).
Timeout #3 by CIN at 01:27.
4th and 9 at SD 12 M.Scifres punts 51 yards to CIN 37, Center-M.Windt. B.Tate to CIN 32 for -5 yards (D.Stuckey).
DRIVE TOTALS: SD 7, CIN 7, 4 plays, -4 yards, 0:33 elapsed

Run, run, run, run, punt. The message was loud and clear. Ken Whisenhunt and Mike McCoy were not about to let Rivers throw an interception or take a sack. They were taking the ball out of his hands because he gets too excited at times and it results in bad things happening.

That's all well and good. I actually applaud the Chargers coaches for identifying a problem and doing their best to avoid it. Decisions like that are why the team has come so far in just one year. However, the team isn't going to win a Super Bowl on the injured legs of Ryan Mathews alone.

At some point, Rivers is going to need to carry his team on a good drive at the end of a half. I'm not saying that he can't do it, because we've actually seen him do it a couple of times this season (the Eagles game jumps to mind). What I'm saying is.....if the Chargers coaches are scared of the idea of Rivers in a high-pressure situation, shouldn't we be scared of the same thing? Or, at the very least, shouldn't we be scared of the idea that the season could come down to something (Rivers running a 2 minute drill) that the coaching staff has specifically worked to avoid all season long?

Mike McCoy

We haven't run the numbers, but the eyeball test tells us that Mike McCoy is one of the most conservative coaches in the league. Actually, let's set this up like a depressing joke:

Mike McCoy is so conservative.

How conservative is he?

Mike McCoy is so conservative that he punts from the opponents' 37 yard line on 4th & 1 regularly.

The last time the Chargers went to Denver to take on the Broncos, he didn't end up with a single "tough call" on 4th down. There wasn't a single instance where the fans, and the 4th Down Bot, were telling him to go for it. His conservatism didn't shine, nor did it matter.

I can't stress this point enough: The head coach of the Chargers will do nothing to help the team win the game once it is kicked off. In fact, he will likely do a few things that hurt their chances at victory. That's what his M.O. has been all season long.

San Diego is tasked with going against the best team in the AFC, and one of the best offenses in the league, with probably the worst defense of any playoff team this year. They will likely need to employ David strategies to get the edge and win the game, but the chances of McCoy following such a plan are similar to a snowball's chance in hell.

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