Yeah, I said it. The Chargers will win the season opener at Oakland on Monday night. My main source of confidence rests on the shoulders of Philip Rivers.
Rivers is 5-1 in his career when playing at Oakland. He has a touchdown to interception ratio of 10 to 4 in those games. He has also completed 21 throws of 20 or more yards in those very same contests.
Due to the fact of Mathews’ injury, you can be sure that the Bolts will be slinging it on Monday night. Jason Smith of NFL.com and NFL network has gone as far as to say that Rivers is primed to be week one’s fantasy quarterback star of the week.
Although the Oakland defensive line is extremely solid, I am not at all impressed with their linebackers or secondary. My only linebacker concern is whether or not Rolando McClain is going to have a gun on him. That’s his best shot at being a serious difference maker in this game.
As far as the secondary is concerned, Tyvon Branch is a very good player. However, when you take the field and your starting cornerbacks are Ronald Bartell and Shawntae Spencer, elite quarterbacks like Rivers are primed to have a huge game.
On offense, Carson Palmer started to lose “it” prior to leaving Cincinnati. His accuracy and touch has been eroding for the last 4 years. Although the Raiders have great speed at the wideout position, I’m not convinced that he has what it takes to get it to them on time and accurately.
In addition to the stout defensive line, my other obvious concern is Darren McFadden. The guy is a stud without a doubt. But I’m not sold on the Oakland offensive line. If the Chargers are able to hold him under 100 yards rushing it would only increase our margin of victory.
Look for Raider killer Malcom Floyd to start off the season with a bang. I would expect around 100 yards and a touchdown for M-80. Floyd has had his best games against the Raiders.
I am of the opinion that the health of Antonio Gates is not getting enough credit. I do expect him to have a huge impact on the game but not necessarily in the stat column. If Oakland is foolish enough to single cover Gates, then he will definitely have a numbers filled performance. I believe that his impact will be more due to the necessary double teams that he forces teams into while healthy. When hearing that the first ballot Hall of Famer is as healthy as he’s been in four years, I feel like I could do the flips that I once did almost two decades ago. The NFL, excluding the Chargers, of course, is not ready for a 100% healthy Gates. That’s a fact.
Our offensive line could be an issue. I think that Norv and Company will employ Randy McMichael, and the running backs, similarly to how they did last season towards the latter part of the year.
Stat hounds were ready to ship off McMichael after the signing of Rosario and the drafting of Green at tight end. Not me. Randy’s contributions are not of those that can be found in your typical fantasy-like fashion. He is very good at lining up on the left side as a sixth o-line member and also flanking Rivers in the backfield as a blocker as well. Expect to see this a lot in the opener. Depending on the “whack” spasms of Gaither, we may see that all season long. Sorry, back spasms.
As for our defense, the front seven has greatly improved. Vaughn Martin, Corey Liuget, Aubrayo Franklin, Camaron Thomas, and rookie Kendall Reyes have spent most of their plays in the other teams backfield during the preseason.
Melvin Ingram will prove that 17 teams made a huge mistake by not drafting him due to having short arms. His motor, tenacity, and football strength make him a menace to offenses for 60 minutes.
Although he will start out as a situational pass rusher and 3rd down specialist, expect him to make an impact on each and every play that he is on the field.
Donald Butler was a stud during the 2011 season. He is another year removed from that nasty achilles injury. I think that all Charger fans are aware that he is going to look even better this season. Look out.
Add to that a healthy Shaun Phillips and a healthy Larry English, and the Bolts will prove that their linebacking corp is now a strength of this team. Oops, almost forgot Jarret Johnson. Stud alert!
The secondary will look much better this year now that we aren’t relying on the likes of Travis LaBoy to generate a pass rush. Phillips missed four full games and played hurt in three others. Look for both Jammer and Cason to have bounce back type seasons. Both are in contract years and I expect solid play from our starting corners. Darn it! That one guy that we traded up to get out of Utah…… what’s his name? Oh, yeah, Eric Weddle. He’s pretty good.
I could go on and on about why I feel as though we will beat Oakland. But the fact of the matter is that you all have your minds made up one way or the other at this point. I find no fault with those of you that believe that we will come away with a loss in the opener. I get it. It’s my opinion that this a going to be a different season than we have grown accustomed to the last two years. This season will end with a Superbowl trophy in hand. Or…. Norv Turner gets fired and we all win, so to speak.
Yup, it’s football season folks. I am going to have to ditch the homer hat. Unless they prove me right. And I truly believe they will.
Thanks a lot for reading.