Here at Shutdown Corner, we want to help. So once a week, we'll go in and examine a team coming off a bad week, bad month, maybe a bad decade (you're in luck, Cleveland), and see what fixes can be made to turn around the season. So step aside, we've got this. Next under the microscope: the San Diego Chargers.
Where they stand: 5-7, third place in the AFC West, one game out of final wild card spot
What's gone right: This could've been a great season. Six of San Diego's seven losses are by eight points or fewer, and in many of those the Chargers have been victimized late. But this isn't college football; you don't get credit for pretty losses. This is the National Football League, son, and you don't whine. Unless you're Philip Rivers, who whines about everything. Fortunately, he's also quietly rediscovered his quarterback mojo; the Chargers rank fourth in passing yardage in the NFL. Unfortunately, this is a case where gaudy stats don't quite reach the scoreboard; the Chargers are dead-center 16th in total points scored.
What's gone wrong: The defense can best be described as kittenish, which is good if you're talking Internet photos but very, very bad if you're trying to keep NFL offenses contained. San Diego gives up 387 yards per game; only the Vikings, Eagles and Cowboys are worse. The Chargers rank 28th against the pass and 22nd against the run, with a -5 turnover differential.
What we'd fix: This late in the season, we still haven't quite figured out the Chargers. Are they a good team with bad breaks, or a bad team that's maximized its opportunities? They've got wins over Indianapolis and Kansas City, but they're in the midst of a four-losses-in-five-games skid that's all but decimated their playoff hopes. Oh, and their loss last week against Cincinnati? Yeah, that was the only one blacked out all season so far in the NFL. We'd recommend that the Chargers focus on pass D so that Rivers doesn't have to score every time he touches the ball, but we're not sure San Diego would even listen at this point.
The road ahead: The Chargers have to go on the road against Denver and close the season at home against Kansas City. Mixed in are winnable games against the Giants and the Raiders. They could go 1-3 or 3-1, and neither outcome would surprise us.
Is there hope? It's going to be tough. San Diego is one of six teams fighting for a single playoff spot, and it's got one of the toughest schedules of the bunch. An 8-8 team could win that sixth spot, but it would require all the other teams to wilt like daisies. Realistically, San Diego has to run the table and hope the Ravens and Titans get lost on the way to their final few games.
Previous Shutdown Fixes:
Washington Redskins • New York Giants • Pittsburgh Steelers • Atlanta Falcons • Houston Texans • Minnesota Vikings • Philadelphia Eagles • St. Louis Rams • Green Bay Packers • New York Jets • Detroit Lions
SEATTLE – The New Orleans Saints are stuck now. And that's not a reference to their broken-down plane in Seattle.
New Orleans is a very good football team. But Monday night proved they're not better than the Seahawks. That's a problem, considering the road to the Super Bowl will go through Seattle.
You won't often see one team completely dominate another good team like the Seahawks did to the Saints on Monday night. It's hard to imagine the Saints changing so much before the playoffs that they could flip it around and win at Seattle in January.
"Everything went wrong," Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said.
And, of course, the incredibly one-sided loss brings up more questions about the Saints' ability to win outside the Superdome. New Orleans has lost to the Jets on the road, and needed a miracle to pull out a road win against the lowly Buccaneers (though, it should also be noted the Patriots needed a miracle to beat the Saints in Foxboro). They're just 3-3 on the road this season. Quarterback Drew Brees was questioned about that after Monday's game, and had a surprisingly thorough answer ready.
"I would say the statistics don't lie," Brees said. "Since 2009 we have the most wins on the road of any team in the NFL, period. Since 2006 we have the second most behind only the New England Patriots. So if you just look at that nobody has really done their research."
Maybe something changes before the Saints and Seahawks would square off again. A key injury, an upset by someone else (Carolina?) before the Saints have to come back to Seattle would alter things. But it would take a huge turnaround for the Saints to come back here and win a rematch. Even though the Saints are still one of the best teams in the NFL, the gap between them and No. 1 is pretty large.
Here are this week's power rankings:
32. Houston Texans (2-10, LW: 32)
I’d assume Teddy Bridgewater will be watching their game on Thursday night at Jacksonville with a lot of interest.
31. Washington Redskins (3-9, LW: 29)
It has been a while since I’ve seen a good player totally melt down and cost his team a game like Pierre Garcon did on Sunday.
30. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9, Last week: 31)
Good win at Cleveland. There’s a lot of interesting pieces in place. But they still desperately need a quarterback.
29. Atlanta Falcons (3-9, LW: 30)
They deserve credit for not mailing in their season, which it looked like they were doing two weeks ago.
28. Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1, LW: 28)
It’s pretty apparent Josh Freeman has done something to totally turn that coaching staff and/or front office off to him. Otherwise the whole situation makes no sense.
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9, LW: 27)
Think about how they won at Detroit. Now consider how they got absolutely destroyed at Carolina a week later. Keep those two games in mind if we end up with Carolina at Detroit in a wild-card game.
26. Cleveland Browns (4-8, LW: 23)
Josh Gordon has 64 catches for 1,249 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games. That’s a 1,998-yard pace over 16 games. And he has a miserable quarterback situation.
25. Oakland Raiders (4-8, LW: 25)
I think this coaching staff has done a pretty good job, on the whole. They deserve another year.
24. Green Bay Packers (5-6-1, LW: 19)
Considering 9-6-1 won’t get them in the playoffs (the Lions schedule is too weak for them to blow the North, and Carolina and San Francisco are going to be the wild cards), just shut Aaron Rodgers down.
23. New York Giants (5-7, LW: 26)
Someone, anyone, explain to me why that putrid Sunday night game wasn’t flexed out. I get it, two big markets for ratings, but that doesn’t mean we should all suffer.
22. Buffalo Bills (4-8, LW: 24)
That’s what happens when you sell out your home-field advantage for Toronto games. They probably beat the Falcons on Sunday if the game was at Buffalo and not on a neutral field.
21. New York Jets (5-7, LW: 21)
Are the Jets quarterbacks awful because of their terrible receivers, or are the receivers terrible because of the awful quarterbacks? I’ll let the philosophy majors handle that one.
20. St. Louis Rams (5-7, LW: 22)
There’s still a chance the Redskins’ pick they own from the Robert Griffin III trade will be first overall. It’ll be a high pick no matter if it’s first or not, and it better be used on a quarterback.
19. Tennessee Titans (5-7, LW: 18)
They played fairly well against the Colts, they’re just not there yet. A more dynamic offense will help.
18. San Diego Chargers (5-7, LW: 14)
They needed to beat the Bengals at home on Sunday. Now they might need to do something like win at Denver to get to the playoffs.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7, LW: 15)
Three home games left, and a road game at Green Bay that may or may not include Aaron Rodgers. We haven't heard the last of them.
16. Miami Dolphins (6-6, LW: 17)
The next three weeks are at Pittsburgh, home vs. New England and at Buffalo. And if they finish in a head-to-head tie with Baltimore, the Ravens have the tiebreaker. Tough road to the playoffs.
15. Baltimore Ravens (6-6, LW: 20)
The Tennessee and San Diego losses on Sunday were big for them. The 5-6 quagmire before last week has turned into Miami and Baltimore tied at 6-6. And I think I’d take Baltimore among those two.
14. Chicago Bears (6-6, LW: 13)
Sometimes, a NFL coach makes a decision so bad even folks sitting on their couch at home immediately understand it's wrong. Settling for a 47-yard field goal attempt on second down in overtime is an example.
13. Dallas Cowboys (7-5, LW: 16)
I’m rooting for them to make the playoffs because their great offense/no defense combo would make for a fun game. Doesn't it feel like it would be a 38-35 game with Tony Romo holding the ball at the end?
12. Indianapolis Colts (8-4, LW: 12)
Over the last five weeks, name one thing this team is doing at an elite level. Even Andrew Luck looks worn down from getting hit every pass attempt.
11. Arizona Cardinals (7-5, LW: 9)
On the bright side, Michael Floyd has turned into a star at receiver. Unfortunately, Floyd’s emergence might make it easier for them to trade the immensely popular Larry Fitzgerald.
10. Detroit Lions (7-5, LW: 11)
Big weekend for them, as they now have a huge edge in the NFC North. But they’re going to play Carolina, New Orleans or San Francisco in the playoffs, so don’t expect much.
9. Philadelphia Eagles (7-5, LW: 10)
See that last sentence about the Lions? Well, it applies here too, if they win the East. But the takeaway from this season is that Chip Kelly’s offense should be great once it accumulates better talent.
8. Kansas City Chiefs (9-3, LW: 7)
Nothing wrong with Sunday’s loss, and not a surprise either. They’re not as good as the elite teams. A 9-0 start against bad teams didn’t change that. But I still like them over Indy in round one.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (8-4, LW: 8)
Andy Dalton is like Tony Romo in that people wait for any reason to rip him, but the truth is, he hasn’t played well for a few weeks. He’s capable of playing better. We’ll see which Dalton shows up in January.
6. San Francisco 49ers (8-4, LW: 6)
There’s a big drop from No. 6 to No. 7. It take a lot of convincing to talk me into the Chiefs, Bengals, Lions or whoever as a Super Bowl contender. But the 49ers are good enough to be in that elite class.
5. New Orleans Saints (9-3, LW: 3)
I feel like moving them down this far is a bit of an overreaction, because the Seahawks are just that good. We'll reassess them after Sunday night.
4. New England Patriots (9-3, LW: 5)
It's great to see Tom Brady back to his old form again, but let's not forget that the defense gave up 31 points to a Texans team that barely scored two field goals against the Jaguars a week earlier.
3. Carolina Panthers (9-3, LW: 4)
I like teams that blow out every bad team they play. The Panthers have done that consistently, at least since Week 4.
2. Denver Broncos (10-2, LW: 2)
Cornerback Champ Bailey is 35 and the Broncos had him on the bench during Kansas City’s final drive Sunday. But mark this down: He’ll make one enormous play in the playoffs.
1. Seattle Seahawks (11-1, LW: 1)
Absolutely no question after that win. A Broncos-Seahawks Super Bowl would be quite the show, don't you think?
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The Falcons beat the Bills in Toronto on Sunday, which makes this week's edition of Three Pivotal Plays a lot more fun for all of us.
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