Each Wednesday, the SB Nation NFL team sites explore a special theme. This week's theme is: “Who is the one player you can't afford to lose?”
Matthew Stanley: Philip Rivers. He won't be, but he should be in the conversation as an MVP candidate. He is so important to this team, and his replacement, Kellen Clemens is a huge drop off in talent and performance. I don't think this team scores more than 6 points a game without Rivers at the helm this season.
Jason Michaels: I think that Philip Rivers is the obvious choice. He’s been back up toward his career best in this latest winning streak. The drop off after him would be a death sentence, while the loss of anyone else would be a mere challenge.
However, similarly important would be Coons. Finally having a kicker going 7 of 8 and 4 of 4xp correlates perfectly with the win streak. There is no doubt that they’ll need a trusty leg down the end of the season.
Ryan Doyle: I️ think Philip Rivers is the far and away most obvious choice, but I️ think Russell Okung is really important to the Los Angeles offense. He has done a fantastic job protecting Rivers and has allowed Rivers to enjoy this great stretch. Not only that, but he has been one of the better run blockers on the team as well. It appears that for the first time in a long time, Rivers has trust at left tackle.
Louis Gorini: The obvious answer is Rivers. But if you want to think out of the box, the loss of Hayward would be equally catastrophic. He has been dominant this year. If he is not getting interceptions, he is dropping them (not an insult, that is how many times he is getting his hands on the ball as a CB). Trevor Williams would still be fine on one side, but losing Hayward on the other would expose the Chargers safeties.
Ruben J. Gonzalez: The obvious choice would be Philip Rivers, but I think the Chargers would be in a mess if Keenan Allen were not available. The main reason that the Rivers is flowing so good right now is because Keenan has been so damned good. Last year was last year, but Philip was there and Keenan wasn't; and we all know how that turned out.
Michael Peterson: The answer has got to be Philip Rivers, especially after seeing Clemens come in and throw that pick-6 without any pressure to actually play decently. It was prevalent in the preseason that without Rivers, this offense becomes a wet sock out on the field.
Aaron Woolley: This team goes as Rivers goes. Through 4 games, many of us were on the bandwagon to move on from Rivers. Over the last four weeks, no one has been better, and his team looks like (arguably) the scariest team in the league. If Rivers keeps playing at this level, the Chargers will be unstoppable in the playoffs.