The NFL landscape is not one for the weary kind.
Week-to-week might sound like coach speak, but it’s a tad strange for a four point underdog with two less wins to carry more hype and mojo into a matchup.
Let’s look at San Diego
The Chargers roll into Week 12 with a 6-4 record. Not bad… not great. Well, if you live in San Diego, all hell is breaking loose. After a torrid 5-1 start, reality is setting in. The Chargers have dropped three of four, with its lone win coming against the league’s Pez Dispenser– The Oakland Raiders. Actually, two of San Diego’s wins have come via the “Black Hole”. The combined record of teams San Diego posted victories against is 14-36… and that’s if you only count Oakland (0-10) once.
San Diego’s offensive line has struggled all season. Left guard Chad Rinehart had his hands full last week with Antonio Smith registering six QB pressures (sack, two hits, and three hurries). Statistically, the Raiders have the worst pass rush and yet still peppered Phillip Rivers all afternoon. This is problematic for a number of reasons, some self-explanatory.
- The Rams front four is playing at a high level. The defense pressured Peyton Manning 13 times last week, resulting in a pair of sacks and two interceptions. It’s fairly obvious several key players had a tough time adopting Gregg Williams’ scheme early in the season.
- San Diego’s offense is intent on running the football up the middle. Ideally, the Chargers would like to run the football 40 times, no joke. They are 1-3 this season when they don’t rush at least 20 times. But they only average 3.1 yards per carry, dead last in the NFL. So…
- If the Chargers find it difficult to run the ball against Aaron Donald and Co., which I think they will, the offense could revert to a one-dimensional passing threat. Ask the Broncos how well that worked. Denver ran the ball 10 times for 28 yards. They never reached the Red Zone.
There are rumors circulating that QB Phillip Rivers has significant cartilage damage to his ribs. Antonio Gates validated those rumors last weekend when he blatantly said Rivers was trying to gut it out.
“He’s been taking shots all year. For those who don’t know, he’s been dealing with a rib injury, a very severe rib injury. So he’s been toughing it out these last three, four weeks.”
That drew the ire of Mike McCoy, who, like all head coaches, does his best to disguise injuries.
So Gates clarified his remarks, saying there was a “misunderstanding of what I was trying to say about him.”
McCoy went as far to say the QB “isn’t receiving any treatment for a rib injury.”
Look, the point is Rivers is hurt. He’s dealing with a rib injury, and playing behind an inept offensive line isn’t helping. The Chargers have averaged 13.5 points offensively since Week 7… good for last in the NFL.
So if the Rams defense continues their upward trend, Phillip Rivers might not last the entire game.
AREAS OF CONCERN
Get ready for a boatload of, ‘Rivers complete to Gates!’
Gates will get his share of targets, close to ten. But then again, with the emergence of TJ McDonald, Rodney McLeod and Alec Ogletree, it’s legitimate to wonder how anxious Gates is to fly down the middle of the field.
Jeff Fisher harped all week on several “busted coverage” plays against Denver, one leading to a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders 42-yard score. Realistically, it’s been a season long issue. Rivers will throw the ball downfield so if (Rams Secondary Coach) Chuck Cecil’s group can’t sort things out, that’s the trouble. No lead is safe against Rivers. Second year WR Keenan Allen had a monster rookie season in ’13 eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns.
Gregg Williams has dialed up the heat all season with less than stellar results. Rivers owns a league-best 94.7 QB Rating when opponents send an additional pass rusher.
‘STAY STRANGE’ STAT/DONUT:
Despite 8 offensive fumbles, San Diego has only lost one.
Fisher continuously refers to strong tackling as a key to the defensive emergence.
Take McDonald last week. Manning targeted him 8 times, completing 4 passes for 10 yards.
Tackling means ensuring a short 2-yard pass doesn’t go for 5 yards on 1st down. Driving players back, hitting hard, and playing fast.
Phillip Rivers is an elite quarterback, but his health and shaky offensive line doesn’t exactly match up well with a surging defense. The Rams need to stymie the Chargers rushing attack and force Rivers to make bad decisions with pressure.
If Rivers starts throwing the ball sidearm, San Diego is in trouble.
Quote of the Week
“They certainly are better than their record.”
– Chargers backup QB Kellen Clemens, who started 9 games for St. Louis in 2013.
Thanks for reading. I’ll get to PT. 2 (Rams offensive plan) when I can. Big interview today with the Tampa Bay Rays!