By Dave Thomas
What would the reaction be around the NFL if the San Diego Chargers went into Lambeau Field on Sunday and came away with an upset win over the 5-0 Green Bay Packers? After dropping a heart-wrenching 24-20 loss at home this past Monday evening to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bolts can only go up from here. The question is, however, can this team pull the unimaginable and knock off Aaron Rodgers and the surging Pack?
As history has shown over the years, San Diego (2-3) has a knack for winning some of the games they shouldn’t and losing to some teams that, on paper, they would easily beat. So, which Chargers’ team shows up this Sunday when all is said and done?
Packers Are Rolling At 5-0
There are likely not too many people around the league surprised with the fact that the Packers have been rolling through the first month or so of the season. While wins over Seattle and even San Francisco did not come easily, Green Bay has certainly looked to date like the prohibitive favorite in the NFC. Given that the Seahawks have stumbled out of the gates at 2-3, the Packers look all the more like the team that very well could be representing the NFC come February at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara.
So, what will it take for the Chargers to temporarily derail Green Bay’s run to the NFC crown? Following the heartbreaking loss to Pittsburgh in front of a nationwide audience, the Chargers almost indicated that they would put that setback behind them and give Green Bay all it wants this weekend. In order for San Diego to have any chance (Chargers enter as a 10.5-point underdog) of giving Rodgers and the Packers their first loss of the season, they will need to:
- Give quarterback Philip Rivers ample protection in the pocket. Everyone knows that San Diego’s offensive line is weak right now, but can the Chargers pull it together and give their veteran signal caller the time he needs to pick apart Green Bay’s secondary?
- Get Melvin Gordon and the running game going. As the former Wisconsin star returns to his college roots, he will need a big game to take some pressure off of Rivers and the receivers.
- Make sure Rodgers does not have a big day under center. With 13 TD passes to date this season, Rodgers and the Pack have pretty much been rolling on the offensive side of the ball. Getting pressure on Rodgers and shutting down any semblance of a running game would definitely keep the Chargers in the game.
Just like with any other team through five games, the Chargers are dealing with their share of injuries with the overall health of the offensive line continuing to be the biggest question mark. King Dunlap, D.J. Fluker, Orlando Franklin, Chris Hairston and Chris Watt have been the walking wounded of recent weeks. As a result, Rivers has been under siege, something the Chargers need to reverse sooner rather than later.
Defensively, San Diego would definitely be well-served if Manti Te’o and Kyle Emanuel return to their respective positions as soon as possible. Te’o has been off to a good start this season, tallying 40 total tackles (second on the team behind Eric Weddle) through five games.
King Dunlap, tackle (concussion)
Kyle Emanuel, outside linebacker (shoulder)
D.J. Fluker, offensive guard (ankle)
Orlando Franklin, offensive guard (ankle)
Chris Hairston, tackle (ankle)
Stevie Johnson, wide receiver (hamstring)
Craig Mager, corner (hamstring)
Darius Philon, defensive end (hip/thigh)
Manti Te’o, inside linebacker (ankle)
Chris Watt, center (groin/concussion)
Tourek Williams, outside linebacker (foot)
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.