By Dave Thomas
Following an 0-4 start to the season, many prognosticators had likely written the Los Angeles Chargers off when it came to having any playoff hopes.
Now, with three straight wins to their credit, the Chargers are right back in the AFC West playoff hunt. As such, folks around the league are now taking a second look at the team calling Carson, California its temporary home for the next few seasons.
In a great defensive effort that led to a 21-0 shutout of the rival Denver Broncos last Sunday, the Chargers showed how formidable a team they can be when playing some of their best football. Even with a rushing game that was pretty much non-existent, the Bolts were able to muster up enough offense to secure the win and split the season series with the Broncos.
So, is this team for real after all?
Patriots Will Prove Stiff Test
With a road date looming this Sunday at New England, the Chargers will have a stiff test on their hands.
In a rather dominating fashion, New England defeated Atlanta, 23-7, this past Sunday evening in Foxborough. By doing so, Tom Brady and the Pats showed that they are still the class of the AFC. If the Chargers are able to go on the road and upset New England, even more heads would be turned around the NFL.
For the Chargers to beat the Patriots, two keys have to emerge.
First, San Diego must get something out of its running game. In the win over Denver last Sunday, the Chargers’ top two rushers each finished with 38 yards. Were it not for a great Los Angeles defensive effort and Denver looking inept on offense, this would have been a much closer game.
Second, shutting down Brady for four quarters is next to impossible. In their victory last Sunday in the Super Bowl rematch with the Falcons, the Patriots used a dominating defense and a little fog (did you see the weather during the game?) to stymie a potent Atlanta attack. Meantime, Brady went 21-of-29 for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
For Los Angeles, containing Brady and getting its own running game going will both be keys to victory.
How’s November Schedule Shaping Up?
After this weekend’s cross-country trip to New England, the Chargers will settle in for their bye week.
Following the time off, Los Angeles will once again head back to the East Coast for a Nov. 12 date in Jacksonville. To date, the Jaguars have surprised a number of NFL followers. Heading into play this weekend, Jacksonville sports a 4-3 record and is tied with Tennessee for first in the AFC South.
After visiting the Jags, the Chargers return home to host Buffalo on Nov. 19, followed by a quick turn-around, a Thanksgiving Day visit to Dallas.
With only one home game in the next month, the Chargers will look to prove themselves as a dangerous road club. Two of their three wins on this current three-game winning streak were at the New York Giants and Oakland, respectively.
Although the mantra is always one game at a time, a win in New England on Sunday would go a long way in turning heads around the NFL that this Los Angeles team could be for real.