Welcome to “This Is Totally Your Year,” our overly optimistic preview of the 2014-15 NFL season for all 32 teams. We’ve broken down why every team — yes, even your team (and yes, even your team, Rams fans) — will win it all this year. We’ll also give some reasons for pessimism and even estimate an actual season prediction. Next up: The San Diego Chargers.
If things had been a bit different, the San Diego Chargers could be owned and operated by Paris Hilton right now. The original owner in 1960 was Barron Hilton, son of Hilton Hotels founder Conrad Hilton and grandfather of Paris. The team could have been handed down to her — how awesome would that be? Of course then we never would have had current owner Alex Spanos, or the Norv Turner “Era Of If” (2010-2012), which was delightful, but devoid of playoff appearances.
And they wouldn’t now have Mike McCoy, who led the Chargers to the promised land this past season, that being the second round of the playoffs. Yes, after several seasons of woe, San Diego (the only NFL franchise between San Francisco in the north and Tierra del Fuego in the south) went 9-7, sneaking into the playoffs as the third team from the AFC West. They then went on to beat the Bengals on the road, 27-10, in the Wild-Card round, and then only lost to Denver by a touchdown. All in all a fantastic season.
Will the Chargers revert to form and slide back in the standings this season? FALSE. The main reason is that their quarterback, Philip Rivers, seems to have found his footing and will continue to improve under McCoy.
To go deep into the playoffs the Chargers must throw deep, and Rivers was better at that last season. In 2012 he completed deep passes (20 yards or more) for 637 yards and five touchdowns, with six interceptions. In 2013, it improved to 778 yards, seven TDs and only two interceptions — his grade improving from -1.3 to +9.7. Overall he went from 3,606 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions to 4,478 yards, 32 TDs and 11 picks. “Cry Me A” Rivers became “The Rivers Wild”.
The running game? Ryan Mathews, finally healthy last season for seemingly the first time in his career had the league’s seventh-most rushing yards. Danny Woodhead averaged 4.0 yards-per-carry and had eight touchdowns. And this season they have Donald Brown, who had 5.3 yards per carry last season with the Colts, which was second-best in the NFL.
The defense, long an awkward pause during Chargers’ fans Thanksgiving table conversations, is now a real strength. The outside linebacker position is outstanding with 2012 first-rounder Melvin Ingram, a 2012 first-round pick who suffered an ACL injury but is now back. Then there’s Dwight Freeney, another ex-Colt, who played only four games last season before getting hurt. But he’s back as well.
Dwight Freeney will have a monster season and so to could the Chargers. My conversation with Freeney here: http://t.co/AxcwQfOrrg
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) September 1, 2014
Concerns? We have a few. Chief among them is the defensive line, where Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes, the top draft picks at that position in 2011 and 2012, respectively, have been somewhat of a disappointment. Overall, the defense was ranked 29th in the NFL last season, and must improve pass coverage. And the AFC West has the Broncos and Chiefs … and the Raiders are always problematic because it’s a rivalry game. But then, the Raiders are rivals with everyone.
Prediction: 10-6, playoffs again. Can Rivers take them further into the postseason? The answer is shrouded in mystery. All that is clear is that we will call then The Lightybulbs from now on.