Posts Tagged ‘philip rivers’

i.jpg

Will we look back on 2016 as the start of something new? Or as another in a long list of wasted seasons?

Edit: At the time of this post, the Chargers pulled their contract offer from third overall pick Joey Bosa. He has since been signed by San Diego to a 4-year, $28.5m contract (similar contract to what was originally offered).

The San Diego Chargers are in a bad spot.

This isn’t a revelation by any means, but in a year where nearly every NFL team has a reason to be hopeful for 2016 or beyond (yes, even Cleveland), it’s worth acknowledging that San Diego is lost.

Since the great era of LaDainian Tomlinson came to a close in 2010, the Chargers have missed the playoffs in every year but one. As if consistently missing the playoffs isn’t bad enough, it’s how San Diego is failing that is giving them some serious long-term issues. Save for last year’s abysmal 4-12 campaign, the Chargers have won between 7 and 9 games since 2010, preventing them building a team through high-quality drafts. Things were looking a bit better when last year’s 4-win season finally yielded a top-5 draft pick, but they even managed to screw that up, failing to lockdown third overall pick Joey Bosa. Another 6-9 win season looms in 2016. The years following hold many questions and I fear the answers leave the city of San Diego without an NFL team.

The consistent heart, soul, and face of the Chargers has been Philip Rivers, who is in a unique position of being one of the better QBs in the league on a struggling team. He’s been remarkably healthy and successful in his career (individually, that is), playing in every game since 2006 and throwing for over 3000 yards in every season (most years over 4000). If there’s been one bright spot for Chargers fans to look for in the darkness of the past few years, it’s Rivers. But at 34, his retirement looms and the window for building a better team around him is rapidly closing. Soon, Rivers will be gone and the Chargers will be left pondering an even darker future: the search for a new franchise QB, a.k.a. the Cleveland Browns.

Another “franchise” player in Eric Weddle was let go this offseason after nine seasons with San Diego. His departure not only leaves the team with a defensive leadership hole to fill, but it revealed a level of dysfunction that is scary to realize. There was a lot of buzz about Weddle being fined by the team in 2015 for watching his daughter perform at halftime instead of joining the team in the locker room. In the following months, Weddle was extremely vocal about how poorly the Chargers front office and coach treated him in subsequent contract negotiations. The three-time Pro Bowler joined the Ravens this offseason.

Who really knows how poorly Weddle was treated, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is perception and draft picks like Bosa and countless free agents have to decide if they want to bet their career on Weddle exaggerating the truth.

As if all that doesn’t paint a bad enough picture for the future, remember the fact that San Diego narrowly evaded relocation for the upcoming season. The franchise agreed to remain in San Diego for at least one more season while they review plans for a possible move to LA (to share a stadium with the Rams) or Las Vegas. Pay close attention to the sights and sounds of the Qualcomm Stadium crowd and you’ll wonder why they cheer for a Philip Rivers interception. It’s because the seats are filled with visiting fans, so much so that you’ll see a sea of orange when they host division rival Denver. With the San Diego faithful getting drowned out in their own stadium, relocation seems inevitable and that’s any fan’s worst nightmare.

As a San Diego Charger fan, what do you realistically root for in 2016? Another 8-10 win season that leads to an encouraging playoff berth, but still leaves them floating in NFL draft purgatory? Or another bottom-dwelling campaign that grants them a chance at a total rebuild, but sends them to Los Angeles to begin that rebuild?

Philip Rivers’ final years are sliding away with nothing to show for it and how they perform in 2016 could finally determine where they go in the future, figuratively and literally.

New Orleans joined the big boys with their convincing win over Miami.

New Orleans joined the big boys with their convincing win over Miami.

With Week 4 in the books and Week 5 almost upon us, the NFL has reached the quarter mark of the season. Plenty of performances warrant my attention this week. Tennessee and Detroit grabbed their impressive third win when supposedly “better” teams struggled, or are still struggling, to get their first. Philip Rivers and Reggie Bush, assumed to have already reached the peak of their ability, rolled out huge performances in their teams’ wins. I could talk all day about these surprise teams and players, but I want to use this post to talk about the teams that are really taking care of business. The big boys, the undefeateds, the elites, however you want to put it. There are five teams–Denver, Seattle, New Orleans, New England, and Kansas City–remaining without a loss and while they are all playing at a high level, they are doing so in different ways.

First, let’s take a look back in time. One year ago, only three 4-0 teams remained: Atlanta, Houston, and Arizona. The Falcons nearly went all the way, falling to the Niners in the NFC Championship. Houston made it into the playoffs as the AFC South champ, but once again exited early as they had in 2012. And Arizona……..well, their 5-11 record should speak for itself. So which one of the elite teams this year are destined for an extended season like Atlanta’s and which will crumble under the pressure like Arizona?

Who can stop Peyton Manning?

Who can stop Peyton Manning?

The Denver Broncos are the team topping most people’s lists and Power Rankings, including mine. Can you really blame them? The Broncos lead the league with 179 points scored–that’s nearly 45 a game–and Peyton Manning is playing at an unprecedented level. You can marvel at his 138.8 passer rating or 75% completion, but what stands out to me is his 16:0 TD-INT ratio. Peyton is healthy both physically and mentally and it shows when he can avoid throwing any picks while putting the ball in the endzone 16 times. He’s utilizing his weapons so well, finding his new target Wes Welker for six touchdowns. The truly staggering aspect of the receiving corp is the fact that Welker doesn’t even lead the team in yards. He’s third behind Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas. When defenses have to think about a playmaker like Welker as the third biggest threat, the offense is scary good. This doesn’t mean Denver doesn’t have weaknesses. The secondary has been exposed by skilled QBs like Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, and Michael Vick for chunks of yards. They’ll be facing even better QBs in the future that could get on a roll and put up a lot of points. A defense that can contain Peyton’s offense to under 25 points could have a shot at upending the Denver Broncos. After all, Denver hasn’t been facing the stiffest competition. Their opponents’ combined record is an abysmal 3-12. But even having said that, I don’t see a team that can stop Denver in the near future. A Week 7 challenge in Indy will likely be their toughest upcoming game.

Seattle is considered by many to be the powerhouse of the NFC. Their 74-20 point differential at home is staggering, especially when you consider the fact that San Francisco was one of those two teams. Russell Wilson has picked up where he left off in 2012-13, making plays with his arm as well as his legs. What really makes Seattle strong is their ability to fluster QBs. They’re holding opposing QBs to just 56% completion and 3 TDs (only three teams have held QBs to less). Colin Kaepernick was lost in his game in Seattle, turning the ball over four times while throwing zero TDs. There is no denying that Seattle can play good D and dominate at home, but what happens when they’re forced out of their comfort zone? In their debut in Carolina, Seattle was held to just 12 points. The same struggles showed up in Houston when the Texans jumped out to a 20-3 lead. Seattle managed to escape with wins in both games but they may not get so lucky against better teams. Their next road test? Try next week in Indianapolis–who went 7-1 at home last year–led by a smart, mobile Andrew Luck.

If you ever doubt the influence of a good coach, take a look at the New Orleans Saints. With Sean Payton suspended for the year, New Orleans went 0-4 to kick off the 2012-13 season. With Sean Payton back, New Orleans is 4-0 and looking at a huge year. Among the five undefeateds, the Saints have faced the stiffest competition. Their opponents’ combined record is only 6-10, but big wins over Atlanta and Miami stand out. The Drew Brees-Jimmy Graham tandem is one of the best in the league, if not the best. The defense is consistently good, allowing just over 300 total yards per game (6th best) and 55 total points (5th best). Unlike Seattle, the Saints’ run game is slow and the offense relies on Drew Brees to generate points. So far, this hasn’t been a problem. But similar to Seattle, a tough road game might give New Orleans their first loss. They’ve only played one game on the road and it was a last second win over the 0-4 Bucs. I wouldn’t be surprised if New Orleans have one in the loss column by the time they get out of Chicago and New England. If they do happen to get through these two road tests, watch out.

New England is finding ways to win with the pieces they have.

New England is finding ways to win with the pieces they have.

New England is the team that interests me most out of these five. They escaped with ugly wins against Buffalo and New York and followed them up with a blowout over Tampa and a dominating road performance in Atlanta. Tom Brady isn’t putting up the kinds of numbers he usually does but the fact that he’s winning with a huge lack of weapons, notably Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, speaks volumes. Peyton Manning is torching secondaries with all kinds of offensive help but Brady is having to be resourceful, finding unproven rookies like Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson in the open. Brady has done a fantastic job so far but the road is already getting tougher. The loss of DE Vince Wilfork for the year is a significant one and Cincy and New Orleans sit on the horizon. The mark of a truly great team is their ability to win in adverse situations. New England has been placed in an adverse position. Now can they win?

Last but certainly not least is Kansas City. The Chiefs are the feel good story of the year. Having won just two games in 2012-13, KC has turned it around with new personnel and are on the early road to a playoff berth. New QB Alex Smith has been playing smart, using his running ability to pick up crucial first downs. Jamaal Charles is a strong asset in the backfield as always. What is leading the charge, however, is the KC defense. The D is tearing up offenses, notably those from the NFC East, with 12 takeaways (leads AFC) and 41 total points allowed (second only to Seattle). In case you didn’t forget, this is the same Kansas City that fielded one of the worst defenses in 2012-13. Andy Reid has done a fantastic job so far in turning this team around. They’ve been winning comfortably and have put Alex Smith at ease. But when the time comes where Alex Smith has to make plays late in games, will he be that QB? These are the games that will determine if KC is ready for the playoffs.

Philip Rivers knows he'll have to elevate his game for the Chargers to do big things. So far, he has.

Philip Rivers knows he’ll have to elevate his game for the Chargers to do big things. So far, he has.

It’s already Thursday and I’ve yet to discuss a thrilling Week 2! Be sure to check out tonight’s game between the Chiefs and Eagles, where KC coach Andy Reid faces his former team in front of all of Philly. For the record, I think Vick and the Eagles will pull out the win, but it should be a good game.

If you’ve been watching the NFL these first two weeks, then you’ve watched record-breaking history. Week 2 gave us 10 games decided by a touchdown or less, making that 22 on the season (12 in Week 1). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that is an NFL all-time record. If that’s any indication, boy are we in for a good season. Here are a few things I liked from Week 2:

We all know the elite QBs who get all the attention: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, etc. Rodgers had a heck of a game, throwing for a week-leading 480 yards and 4 TDs. Peyton Manning and Drew Brees also had impressive games, both throwing for over 300 yards in their teams’ wins. But it was the mid-range QBs (good, but non-elite) that caught my eye. In Indy, where the Colts went 7-1 last year, Ryan Tannehill of Miami buckled down for 319 yards and 1 TD even under immense pressure (sacked five times). This performance was good enough for the win and Miami is off to a great start at 2-0. Sam Bradford also turned in an impressive line (352, 3 TDs-1 INT) in a game where St. Louis called on him to throw 55 times (led Week 2). Unfortunately, his three TDs came against the high scoring Falcons in a seven-point loss. The other two QBs I were impressed with faced each other, in the Philly-San Diego game. With his 428 yards and 2 TDs, Michael Vick was the third highest rated QB in Week 2. But it was Philip Rivers who impressed me most as the second highest rated QB, leading his team to the close victory with 419 yards, 3 TDs, and, perhaps most important in a tight game, 0 interceptions. San Diego did a great job keeping Vick and the offensive-powered Eagles off the field, converting on 10 third downs to hold Philly to under 20 minutes of possession. Rivers was a huge part of this important win for San Diego. Not only did they avoid the 0-2 start, but they come away from that game with a huge confidence boost and trust in their QB.

Now of course, these are all just one good game. What makes the elite QBs elite is their ability to sustain a high level of play throughout the season and excel under pressure. Let’s keep an eye on these “mid-range” QBs to see how they respond to a rocky NFL season. While we are already ushering in a new era on young QBs like Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck, etc, some other QBs may just surprise us in the midst of their careers.

Week 2 also offered some great plays that I feel the need to share. Unfortunately only one I found on Youtube, but I included the link to nfl.com for the other one. The video below is a vicious hit delivered from Atlanta’s William Moore. It’s the kind of hit that makes the NFL so exciting to watch.

 

This next video is of Houston’s 2013 first-round draft pick DeAndre Hopkins. Watch the concentration and awareness Hopkins has as he brings down the game winning catch in OT. And this was definitely not the only great catch he had in this game. Something tells me this kid will be a playmaker. Heck, he already is.

http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000244671/Hopkins-game-winning-touchdown-catch