By Dave Thomas
Following a week off to heal some injuries and rework some strategies on offense and defense, the San Diego Chargers returned to the practice field on Monday looking to pick up where they left off before their bye week.
Going into their break at 4-3, the Chargers swing into the November portion of their schedule with a meeting this Sunday at FedExField against the 2-5 Washington Redskins. With a win, the Bolts can run their winning streak to a modest three games.
So, what exactly are the chances that San Diego can come out of November with a perfect 4-0 slate? Although the odds are 50-50 at best, there are some keys to victory over the next four weeks,.
Contain RGIII and the Redskin Crowd
If the Chargers are going to get November off to the right start, it all begins Sunday in Landover, Md. against Washington. While the Redskins have struggled this season, they still have a number of offensive weapons that can make it difficult for opposing defenses.
It all starts of course with stopping the multi-dimensional Robert Griffin III. While RGIII banged up a knee in the team’s 45-21 loss to Denver this past weekend, he is likely to go this Sunday versus the Bolts. In order to leave Landover with a win, San Diego will need to not only keep Griffin from having a big day, but churn out some yardage of their own on the ground.
That means trying to push running back Ryan Mathews to his third-straight 100-yard game. If San Diego is forced to rely strictly on QB Philip Rivers, it could be a long day. Not that the 10-year quarterback is not having a solid season, but the Bolts need to establish the run early and often versus Washington.
Is There Any Stopping Peyton and the Broncos?
After their meeting with the Redskins, the Bolts return home for their lone contest in Southern California in November, a Nov. 10 meeting with the rival Denver Broncos.
While Manning and Co. showed they were human in a 39-33 loss to Indianapolis two Sundays ago, they are still the consensus favorite to come out of the AFC and a trip to the Super Bowl (sorry Kansas City fans).
After leading Denver decidedly at halftime a season ago in San Diego, the Chargers proceeded to watch Manning slice and dice them like a veteran surgeon. The Broncos wound up winning that Monday night affair, likely adding another nail in the coffin of former Charger head coach Norv Turner.
If San Diego is to get back into the 2013 AFC West race, beating Denver at home is all but essential.
Back to the East Coast
One would think the Chargers are padding their frequent flier accounts this season with all these trips (Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Washington, Miami) to the East Coast. The fourth and final venture back there comes Sunday, Nov. 17 in Miami.
The Dolphins are a hard team to gauge this season, having looked pretty good at times and pretty shaky at other times.
Sitting at 3-4, Miami is only a game behind the Chargers currently in the AFC Wild Card race. If the Chargers find themselves unable to catch either Kansas City or Denver for the AFC West crown, a game such as this with another playoff hopeful could determine who goes and who stays home come the first week of January.
Arrowhead Stadium Usually Proves a Challenge
The Chargers’ fourth and final November date takes them to venerable Arrowhead Stadium the Sunday before Thanksgiving for a meeting with longtime rival Kansas City.
Yes, the Chiefs are 8-0 (NFL’s lone unbeaten) to date, but some fans would question whether or not they are for real.
There is no denying head coach Andy Reid has done wonders for a team that was a complete disaster a season ago. That said, look at who Kansas City has beaten to date. Wins over Jacksonville, Philadelphia, the Giants, Oakland, Tennessee, Cleveland, Houston and Dallas are not exactly going to set the NFL world on fire.
A better gauge of just how good the Chiefs are will come on Nov. 17 (at Denver), Dec. 1 (home to Denver), Dec. 22 (home to Indianapolis), and of course the two meetings with San Diego (at San Diego Dec. 29).
One thing for sure is that the Chargers will have their hands full in Kansas City, as Arrowhead Stadium is probably the closest venue to a jam-packed college stadium that the NFL has.
Yes, the month of November will go a long way in determining just really how good this San Diego team is.
For more Chargers news and updates, visit Chargers Central.
Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.