I know, I know. Normally, on Friday I posted a "Chargers will lose" post followed by a "Chargers will win" post. Now it's Saturday, and I have a confession to make. I can't come up with three reasons that San Diego Chargers fans should be pessimistic or afraid of this game.
Now, to be clear, I'm not guaranteeing a Chargers victory. I'm just saying that, for San Diego to lose, something unforeseen will have to happen. A major injury or something of the sort. And I can't possibly throw that out as a reason to be afraid of this game.
Without further ado, here's why Chargers fans should be optimistic about the team's chances this week:
Sometimes, one team is just significantly better than the other team. They have a better roster and better coaching. The better team wins up winning that game almost all of the time. Here is how these two teams rank by DVOA:
Defense: Chargers (13), Raiders (22)
Offense: Chargers (11), Raiders (31)
These things add up to the Chargers being the 7th most efficient team in the league and the Raiders being the 30th most efficient, according to Football Outsiders.
The Jets are ranked as the 27th most efficient and Jacksonville as 32nd, and the Chargers blew both of those teams out. If history is any indicator, this should be an easy win for Mike McCoy's group.
Philip Rivers (vs. Drew Brees)
During this week's Gennaroly Speaking, I said that Philip Rivers is playing the best football of his career and even said his last four games are better than any four consecutive games Drew Brees has ever put together. I suppose I owe it to everyone to look this up.
First, is it the best four game stretch Rivers has ever had?
Last 4 games: 95/129 (73.64%), 1205 pass yds (9.34 YPA), 11 pass TDs, 1 INT
Here's what I'll be looking for. 300+ yards per game, 73%+ completion percentage, and a TD/INT ratio as sterling as 11/1.
Rivers almost did the same this last year between weeks 2-5. He actually threw for more yards and a higher completion percentage, but his yards per attempt was down (8.79) and he threw 4 picks against 9 TDs.
The only other time he got close, Rivers had four midseason games in 2008 in which he posted 293 yard per game, 10 TDs, 4 INTs, and a completion percentage of 69.7%.
So, yes, this is definitively the best four-game stretch of Rivers' career. What about Brees? I said Brees couldn't match it because he throws too many INTs. Let's see...
In 2004, Brees had a four game stretch for the Chargers where he threw for 286 yards per game (8.65 YPA),12 TDs and zero INTs. His completion percentage and yards were down, but that's damn close.
BOOM, I found it. I was wrong.
In 2007, Drew Brees had four midseason games for the Saints in which he threw for 1246 yds, 11 TDs, and 1 INT. Even though his Yards Per Attempt were down (7.89), everything else lines up almost perfectly. Shockingly, Brees almost did the exact same thing later in the season, in a four game stretch where he threw for 1082 yards, 10 TDs and 1 INT with an insanely high(for him) 73% completion percentage.
For what it's worth, the Saints went 7-9 that season. Brees was the entire team and it wasn't enough to make the playoffs. Luckily for Rivers, he has the defense to back him up.
In 2009, the year when Brees took the Saints to a Super Bowl Championship, Brees put together a late-season run in which he completed 73% f his passes, threw for 1273 yards and 13 TDs against just 1 INT (with a YPA of 9.03). That's essentially the level Rivers is playing at right now. Let's hope it's the level he's playing at late in the year.
Branden Oliver (and Ronnie Brown)
This is the perfect situation for Branden Oliver. He was forced into duty against a Jets team that had already quit on the game and put up some amazing second-half numbers last week. This week, with Donald Brown missing the game, he'll be counted on to be the #1 RB against a team that can't stop the run and is dangerously close to quitting on the season.
Ronnie Brown is listed here because he's the perfect backup RB in this game. He's shown over the last few years that he's able to find the hole and make medium-size plays against bad defenses, and he's an excellent receiver and pass-blocker as well (which will help an offensive line that needs it).
In an ideal world, I think the Chargers want to win this game on the ground, not through the air. Oliver and Ronnie Brown will get their shot, and there's a good chance they'll hit their mark.
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