Well, it’s time to use that incredibly homer-ish phrase “If the season ended today…”. This is a phrase that implies that if the football world suddenly decided to start the playoffs today, because an asteroid was going to hit the earth in a month & a half… that “these teams” would make the playoffs. This is something you wouldn’t usually catch me muttering under my breath, let alone writing an article about it. But, I feel that there are a few reasons why we can say it, and not feel like one of those people who are automatically claiming that their 4-3 team is a Super Bowl contender 7 weeks in. Let me explain.
The truth is that if the season ended today, the Broncos (who were supposed to take the division unchallenged) and… hold onto your hats… THE CHARGERS would have the wild-card spots. Yes, you heard me right. We are currently one of the 6 top teams in the AFC. I know what you are thinking. “Yeah, who cares? There is a lot of football to be played”… And, you would be completely right. However, there were a lot of people out there who had predicted that we would be 2-5 by now. They said that we wouldn’t win 6 games this season. While there is always an outside chance that we could lose 7 out of the next nine games, I am going to go out on a limb and say that we just aren’t that bad. For this reason alone, I will say that this topic is worth bringing up.
Another reason, is because the AFC West has long been considered the weakest division in football. As it stands, (and I will try not to throw up in my mouth as I write this) the Kansas City Chiefs are the only undefeated team in the league. The Denver Broncos, who were considered the best team in the league, are in a close second place with one loss. And, our beloved San Diego Chargers are right on Denver’s heels in third place. This makes our division, across the board, the toughest division in football. How did that happen? While I don’t have any love for the two teams ahead of us in the division, it’s SO NICE that the AFC West is no longer the laughing stock of the NFL. We went from teams licking their chops to play our division, to teams being somewhat frightened to play the West. Even the Raiders are much better than predicted.
It appears that the level of respect for our team rising, whether “experts & pundits” like it or not. It makes me beam with joy when they all circle the Indianapolis Colts to come in and beat us on Monday Night in our own house. Following the loss, they are forced to eat a bunch of crow, when we send the Colts packing without a touchdown. Then, the Colts go and take down their “sweetheart team” the very next weekend! Their rationale is suddenly that “The Colts might be the best team in football for beating Denver”. But, sooner or later, they will have to come to terms with the fact that the Chargers didn’t even let Andrew luck sniff the end-zone.
So, does that mean WE are the best team in football? I know that isn’t a very logical argument, but neither are theirs. To top it off, it’s a beautiful thing when long-time Charger haters like Warren Sapp & Michael Irvin are backtracking on their picks & statements. Sapp picking the Jags, and then changing his mind ten minutes before kick-off, shows you that he can’t ignore our team for much longer.. but, he probably will. He will just be wrong from now on.
The best part of all of this is that we are a hobbled team, going into a bye week. Despite starter after starter going to the IR list, like it was a turn-style, Mike McCoy & Company have done an excellent job plugging in players, and being as prepared as possible. Has it always been pretty? No it hasn’t. But, going into the season, popular belief was that we had the worst depth in the league, and that our starters would have to remain healthy for us to contend. Well, we have consistently had average players (at best) holding down key positions, and still have managed to be one of the six best teams in the AFC. This is where you can give credit to the system that McCoy & staff have employed thus far. This never would have happened under Norv Turner.
So, say what you want about the Chargers. There are still 9 games to play, and we could fall off of the face of the earth, following the bye week. But, I didn’t think that all 3 AFC West teams would already be in the playoff picture today. It’s great to see our defense suddenly coming on strong, in the face of extreme adversity. Our O-Line is plugging in guys off the street, and still giving Rivers protection and giving Mathews & Woodhead rushing lanes. We seem to have a player nominated for some award every week. Philip Rivers is a top 5 QB, and leading this team just like the old days. Hopefully, he can keep this level of play up, and some of the “trade Rivers” talk will subside.
We have a lot of things to be proud about, so far, this season. When (and if) this team can get completely healthy, they will be running with the best of them. They are pretty much running with them right now. There is a chance we can still make the playoffs. But… playoffs, or not… I am happy with the changes that were made, and proud to wear my jersey on the street. Quite honestly, I was always proud to wear it.
Keep Bolting Toward Excellence!