Here at Shutdown Corner, we want to help. So once a week, we'll go in and examine a team coming off a bad week, bad month, maybe a bad decade (you're in luck, Cleveland), and see what fixes can be made to turn around the season. So step aside, we've got this. Next under the microscope: the San Diego Chargers.
Where they stand: 5-7, third place in the AFC West, one game out of final wild card spot
What's gone right: This could've been a great season. Six of San Diego's seven losses are by eight points or fewer, and in many of those the Chargers have been victimized late. But this isn't college football; you don't get credit for pretty losses. This is the National Football League, son, and you don't whine. Unless you're Philip Rivers, who whines about everything. Fortunately, he's also quietly rediscovered his quarterback mojo; the Chargers rank fourth in passing yardage in the NFL. Unfortunately, this is a case where gaudy stats don't quite reach the scoreboard; the Chargers are dead-center 16th in total points scored.
What's gone wrong: The defense can best be described as kittenish, which is good if you're talking Internet photos but very, very bad if you're trying to keep NFL offenses contained. San Diego gives up 387 yards per game; only the Vikings, Eagles and Cowboys are worse. The Chargers rank 28th against the pass and 22nd against the run, with a -5 turnover differential.
What we'd fix: This late in the season, we still haven't quite figured out the Chargers. Are they a good team with bad breaks, or a bad team that's maximized its opportunities? They've got wins over Indianapolis and Kansas City, but they're in the midst of a four-losses-in-five-games skid that's all but decimated their playoff hopes. Oh, and their loss last week against Cincinnati? Yeah, that was the only one blacked out all season so far in the NFL. We'd recommend that the Chargers focus on pass D so that Rivers doesn't have to score every time he touches the ball, but we're not sure San Diego would even listen at this point.
The road ahead: The Chargers have to go on the road against Denver and close the season at home against Kansas City. Mixed in are winnable games against the Giants and the Raiders. They could go 1-3 or 3-1, and neither outcome would surprise us.
Is there hope? It's going to be tough. San Diego is one of six teams fighting for a single playoff spot, and it's got one of the toughest schedules of the bunch. An 8-8 team could win that sixth spot, but it would require all the other teams to wilt like daisies. Realistically, San Diego has to run the table and hope the Ravens and Titans get lost on the way to their final few games.
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