Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Chargers Are Primed to Shock the Packers

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QB Philip Rivers. Photo by Jody Taylor, SDBoltReport.com.

The Chargers have become predictable under head coach Mike McCoy. That has certainly been said before, but it usually refers to San Diego's offensive play-calling. In this instance, I am referring to wins and losses, particularly on the road.

In each of McCoy's first two seasons as head coach, the Chargers have gone 4-4 on the road. They have some work to do to maintain that .500 trend in 2015, as the team is off to an 0-2 start away from Qualcomm Stadium.

Another odd trend: in each of the last two seasons, the Chargers laid exactly one egg on the road and pulled off exactly one significant upset.

In 2013, the Chargers laid an egg in Oakland, losing 27-17 in the team's only double-digit defeat of the season. The big win came later in Denver, where San Diego won, 27-20, to keep its playoff drive alive.

In 2014, the proverbial egg was dropped in Miami, 37-0. The Chargers bounced back from that embarrassing showing with three consecutive wins, including a rally in Baltimore that was the season's signature road victory.

In 2015, the egg has already been laid in Minnesota, where the Chargers were blown out by 17 points in Week 3. As for the big road win? There would be no better time to claim it than this week in Green Bay.

Despite the coming off a short week and a gut-wrenching loss to the Steelers, there is reason to think the Chargers can bounce back and give the home team all it can handle.

Firstly, the Chargers are one of the few teams in the league that have a quarterback on par with Aaron Rodgers. Philip Rivers currently leads the league in passing yards (1,613) and ranks second in completion percentage (71.3, minimum 100 attempts). He has thrown twice as many touchdowns as interceptions (10-5) and has a passer rating (103.9) in line with some of his best seasons.

"We've got to be honest with ourselves and know there are things we've got to correct, but at the same time, we know we're not that far off," Rivers said.

Secondly, San Diego's improved health gives reason for optimism. Orlando Franklin returned to practice on a limited basis this week. If he's able to go, San Diego's interior offensive line (LG Franklin, C Trevor Robinson and RG D.J. Fluker) should be as strong as it's been since Week 1. There is also a chance LT King Dunlap could return this week, which would obviously be a huge boost for the offense.

Thirdly, San Diego's defense is showing signs of improvement. Pittsburgh's offense found the end zone just once prior to Le'Veon Bell's game-winning plunge, a 72-yard bomb to Markus Wheaton, who beat a struggling Brandon Flowers on the play. Flowers (knee) is not on this week's injury report, so hopefully he is healthy enough to keep up with James Jones. If Flowers is fit, the Chargers may be catching Rodgers at the right time after he turned the ball over three times last week against the Rams.

"[Our] defense played well," said CB Jason Verrett of Monday night's game against the Steelers. "We just have to finish."

This is not to imply the Chargers are going to march into Lambeau and hand the Packers their first loss of the season. The Packers are 11.5-point favorites according to OddsShark.com, the biggest line of the week.

But the Chargers have, at the very least, a puncher's chance. They knock out at least one heavyweight on the road every season ... that's the one predictable part of the Mike McCoy era we can get on board with.

What are your thoughts on the Chargers-Packers game? Discuss in our message boards!

Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for Scout.com and has also been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports, Footballinsiders.com and MySpace Sports. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter @NFLinsider_Mike.

Brandon Flowers, D.J. Fluker, Jason Verrett, King Dunlap, Orlando Franklin, Philip Rivers, Trevor Robinson
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