By Dave Thomas
Although some might think a game in early November is not a must-win situation, it pretty much is for a 4-4 San Diego Charger team looking for an identity.
With a 4-3 record going into last Sunday's game at Washington, the Chargers had a chance to make it three straight victories, allowing them to move a little closer to the Denver Broncos in the AFC West race. As fate would have it, the Chargers wound up losing in overtime, dropping them back to .500.
Now, the Chargers get set to entertain the rival Broncos this Sunday, a game that takes on even added importance for the home team. A win and they draw closer to Denver; a loss and they are in trouble of even grabbing a wild card spot come the end of December.
As 99 percent of NFL experts will tell you if they are honest, no one saw the Kansas City Chiefs sitting at 9-0 at this point in the season. While Denver at 7-1 certainly has a shot at catching their AFC rival (teams still meet twice), the Chargers can all but forget about even the remote thought of chasing down the Chiefs. With that in mind, San Diego's focus these next eight games has to be on securing one of the wild card spots.
Chargers Need a Complete Game
One of if not the biggest issues for San Diego in recent seasons has been its inability to be consistent. Putting together a full 60 minutes of football over the second half of the season (starting this Sunday) is crucial if the Chargers are to have a shot of breaking their three-year playoff drought.
After a pair of strong games against Indianapolis and Jacksonville, running back Ryan Mathews went back to his old ways last Sunday of having a sub-par game (34 yards rushing) versus the Redskins. Yes, some of that can be attributed to the offensive line, but Mathews needs to have a few break out games over these next eight weeks.
While quarterback Philip Rivers has been much better this season than the disastrous season of two years ago where he threw 20 interceptions, he needs to play his best ball over the second half of the season to give the Chargers hope.
Finally, the defense will get its stiffest test of the season this weekend with Peyton Manning in town. Denver has lit up everyone this season, with its lowest point output coming in a 39-33 loss at Indianapolis. To say Manning will be rigorously going after San Diego's secondary this Sunday afternoon would be an understatement.
Having Royal Would Assist Offense
For the Chargers, there are some health concerns when they take the field versus the Broncos.
Several players did not see practice time on Thursday, including tackle Mike Remmers, defensive end Lawrence Guy, and former Bronco wide receiver-kick returner Eddie Royal. Both guard Chad Rinehart and linebacker Jarret Johnson had limited snaps in practice.
Given San Diego will likely have to score a high number of points to have a shot at winning this game, having Royal's services would certainly help. To date, Royal has seven touchdowns on the season, including one in each of the last two games.
Injury Report as of Thursday
- Linebacker Donald Butler (groin) - full practice;
- Defensive end Lawrence Guy (toe) - did not practice;
- Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (hamstring) - limited practice;
- Tackle Mike Remmers (ankle) - did not practice;
- Guard Chad Rinehart (toe) - limited practice;
- Wide receiver/kick returner Eddie Royal (toe) - did not practice;
- Punter Mike Scifres (knee) - full practice;
- Outside linebacker Tourek Williams (thumb) - full practice.
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.
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