Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to the SAN DIEGO CHARGERS WRITER ROUNTABLE!! *Imagine me as Bruce Buffer/your favorite ringside announcer here
On this weeks edition, we welcome back everyone's favorite U of M student, Max Greenspan, who will help me inform you beautiful people on all things important to the Chargers and their upcoming Thursday night match with the Oakland Raiders.
We'll start with some general stuff before we get into the game proper
Q1: Who is on the bigger hot seat right now, Philip Rivers or Norv Turner?
MG: Turner. Rivers' dip in play this year is something that the guys who get to tell us why that is can't even explain. He is uncharacteristically making mistakes that he rarely made before, which leads me to believe that this season will end up being something of an anomaly in his career. Turner on the other hand, after years of being unable to harness the Chargers' potential, is already souring on many fans. With San Diego floating at .500, this season seems reminiscent of so many of the previous ones with Turner, and unless he begins to win now, his seat will really heat up.
Chat Chargers: For me, it has to be Philip Rivers. There's a part of me that wants to blame his lack of success on the Ryan Fitzpatrick Paradox (a quarterback can only be successful when the talent around him meets a certain standard), but I have to be honest with myself and say that regardless of how the team around him is performing, Rivers is supposed to be an All-Star type quarterback. He has made some sloppy mistakes in the last few games, and sure, he could've been helped with some better play-calling, but ultimately I think his League-leading interceptions have to be a major reason for the Chargers' recent slide. His job may not be in jeopardy, but I think fans are starting to scratch their heads and wonder whether or not we might be better off giving Billy Volek a few snaps.
Q2: The injuries have really been piling up on the Chargers in recent weeks. Which one is the most significant?
MG: Boy do we miss Shaun Phillips. With Tolbert displaying his ability to be a primary back in the absence of Ryan Mathews, Gates looking healthy, and the D-line gaining momentum without Luis Castillo, the most devastating injury thus far has to be Phillips. Our linebacking corp has been fairly solid, but without Philips there are no real playmakers in that group, and as a result the Chargers' defense is struggling to create turnovers and put the opposing offense in tough to convert situations.
Chat Chargers: To me, it has to be Antonio Gates. Even though he is back in the game and getting healthier, he clearly isn't the same player that he used to be. His cuts aren't as crisp, and despite the fact that he isn't seeing as much attention as he used to, he just can't seem to create any space, and it's clearly hurting Philip Rivers.
Q3: Now on to game specifics. What're your three keys on offense?
MG: 1.) Rivers needs to find his groove. I, along with the rest of the sports world, am stupefied by his sudden regression. I refuse to believe that this is permanent, but I can only dismiss the facts for so long. Philip needs to turn it around.
2.) Marcus McNeill needs to reverse his early season swoon as well. The countless penalties he had, at home no less, set the offense 5 yards back all night and continued to disrupt the Chargers' offensive rhythm.
3.) Get pumped. Its the Raiders, the Chargers' biggest rival. Norv needs to fire up this team and put them in the right state of mind to crush a Raiders team that is reeling at this point as Palmer adjusts to the offense.
Chat Chargers: 1.) Separation: For some reason, no one in the Chargers receiving corp seems to be able to create effective separation. If Rivers is going to climb out of his slump, he has to get some from his wide receivers, as well as Antonio Gates.
2.) Rivers: I hate to be redundant, but Philip Rivers really needs to figure his issues out. The Chargers cannot succeed if he continues to play like he has been over the last few weeks.
3.) Running Game: The Chargers had a hard time fully establishing the run game against Green Bay because of the early hole that they dug for themselves. Offensive rhythm, and thus offensive success, has to start with a great rushing attack, because it starts to take pressure off of Philip Rivers, which is something that he really needs right now. Show Rivers some love, run the ball Norv!
Q4: Now on to the other side of the ball: How can the Chargers stop the Raiders offense?
MG: 1.) Pressure Carson Palmer. He is in the midst of shaking off some rust, and I believe that once he does he will play at a high enough level to possibly get the Raiders to the playoffs. If they can prevent him from consistently setting his feet, the Chargers can prevent him from finding his mojo, at least for the time being.
2.) The secondary needs to be ready to cover a lot of ground. In the true spirit of Al Davis, every receiver they have spare the newly acquired Hoosh is a track star. Ford, Moore, DHB, and Murphy have the potential to blow by a secondary that in comparison is much slower.
3.) Hit 'em hard. These are the Raiders. San Diego despises the Raider Nation. The defense should set that tone early and bring the lumber.
Chat Chargers: 1.) Get in the Backfield: I'm not going to zero in on Carson Palmer, because the need to pressure him is fairly obvious. The more important thing is that the defense finds a way to get in the backfield and stop Michael Bush and/or Darren McFadden. If the Raiders can get a rushing attack going, then things get easier for Carson Palmer, and that's the last thing that the Chargers want.
2.) Tackling: Tackling has been a big issue for the Chargers this season, and it's just as important now. If defenders can't wrap up guys like DHB, Jacoby Ford, Darren McFadden or Louis Murphy, they get burned. That's what we're dealing with here people.
3.) Play with Passion: The Chargers under Norv Turner have a tendency to come out flat. If they do, they will lose this game, it really is that simple.
Q5: With the AFC West still wide open, are the San Diego Chargers still the frontrunners?
MG: The AFC West is much closer than when the Bolts were 4-1. Now they sit muddled together with the Chiefs, Raiders, and even the Broncos. Every team in this division is struggling to find either their identity or some degree of consistency. I think the Chargers are the favorites still because of the talent difference between them and the other teams. However, if they can't capitalize on that potential, who knows how this division sorts itself out.
Chat Chargers: If you had asked me on Saturday, I would've told you that the Chiefs had it. Then they got thrashed by the Miami Dolphins. Now....I don't even know. To be honest, I don't think the AFC West has a frontrunner. All four teams could conceivably win it, and the only group that has any sort of mojo going for it is the Denver Broncos, and who knows how long Tebow Time can power that streak. If I had to pick a team though, I'd have to go with the Oakland Raiders. They have the talent, and now that they have a quarterback they will continue to get more and more dangerous as the season goes on and Palmer integrates with the team.
I hope you enjoyed installment No. 2 of Chat Chargers' San Diego Chargers Writer Roundtable. If you enjoyed it, keep checking back here! Slowly but surely I will be working towards posting new updates every day. Until then, though, I can at least promise you SOME great content every week.
Join me tomorrow morning, when I'll break down all the important pregame info you'll need: Fantasy football, betting odds, and pregame quick hits.
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