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Old 08-06-2012, 04:39 PM   #1
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Default Why San Diego Will Win AFC West

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Monday, August 6, 2012
Why San Diego will win AFC West
By KC Joyner
ESPN Insider

The general perception about the San Diego Chargers seems to be that their window of championship contention is closed. This mindset is so prevalent that ESPN.com AFC West blogger Bill Williamson recently noted, "The nation has become tired of the Chargers. [They have] been a perennial popular early Super Bowl pick but have fallen short of the playoffs the past two seasons. As a result, not much attention is being paid to the team anymore."

While the frustration with this club is certainly understandable, the Chargers shouldn't be dismissed as a playoff contender. In fact, the Chargers should be considered the favorites to win the AFC West.

Here are five reasons why:

Philip Rivers is the best quarterback in the division

The addition of Peyton Manning to the Denver offense has many believing that the Broncos have the best quarterback in the AFC West, but Rivers is still the king of passers in this division.

His perceived drop-off last year was nowhere near as precipitous as generally thought. As I pointed out in my 2012 fantasy football draft guide, Rivers still had over 600 pass attempts at a 7.9 yards per attempt (YPA) clip (ninth best in the league) and accounted for 28 touchdowns in 2011. His 216 vertical pass attempts tied for third with Cam Newton in that metric, and his 12.0 vertical YPA (VYPA, which accounts for passes thrown 11 or more yards downfield) was tied for ninth. He wasn't far from being an extremely productive quarterback.

Now contrast that to Manning's last full season in Indianapolis in 2010. His 9.7 VYPA in that campaign (ranked tied for 26th) was an anchor that dragged down his overall YPA (6.9, tied for 21st). Even if his four neck procedures get him back to that level, he will likely fall well short of posting top-flight vertical numbers -- and if his arm strength has faltered to any extent, it could be a huge problem for the Broncos.

The Chargers have the best set of receivers in the AFC West

San Diego did take a big personnel hit at wide receiver when it lost Vincent Jackson to free agency, but the Chargers are still stocked with quality pass-catchers.

It starts with Antonio Gates, whose dominance has been tempered the past couple of years because of injuries. Those physical ailments may be behind him at this point, according to Chargers Pro Bowl safety Eric Weddle. Weddle, who faces Gates every day in practice, recently said, "He is going to be the best tight end in the NFL this year ... He hasn't looked this good since my rookie season."

San Diego also has great vertical threats in Malcom Floyd (whose 13.1 VYPA ranked ninth out of the 31 wide receivers to tally at least 50 vertical targets last year) and Robert Meachem (14.4 VYPA on 35 vertical targets). Add Vincent Brown (who had a 9.5 YPA last year and has been impressive in training camp) and Eddie Royal (who was making quite a splash at camp prior to suffering a groin injury) and it makes for the deepest set of pass-catchers in this division.

The Chargers have the best running back in the division

Every team in the AFC West can make a case to have the dominant lead running back in this division. It just happens that Ryan Mathews' case is the strongest.

It starts with Mathews' 8.6-yard mark in the good blocking yards per attempt (GBYPA) category that measures rushing productivity on plays with good blocking (which is very roughly defined as when the offense doesn't allow the defense to do anything to disrupt a rush attempt). That total ranked tied for fourth among running backs with at least 90 good blocking rush attempts.

Now contrast that to Oakland. The Raiders have an explosive ball carrier in Darren McFadden, but McFadden has more significant injury concerns than Mathews. Plus, Mathews' GBYPA last year was slightly better than the 8.5 GBYPA McFadden posted in his dominant 2010 season, showing he can be just as productive.

The Chiefs have Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis, but Charles is rebounding from an ACL injury and Hillis was the least productive running back in the NFL in the GBYPA metric in 2011.

Denver has Willis McGahee and the fact that he was tied with Mathews in the GBYPA category last year makes this race close in that category. However, McGahee will be 31 years old in October and has posted only one season with more than 250 rushes/receptions over the past four years.

San Diego had the best draft of any team in the division

The Chargers posted a B-plus grade in Mel Kiper's 2012 NFL draft grades, a mark that was higher than the grade given to Denver (C-plus), Kansas City (C-plus) or Oakland (C-minus).

It isn't just the first impression that makes these picks stand out. Rivers recently had high praise for first-round pick Melvin Ingram, and early impressions of second-round pick Kendall Reyes have been extremely positive.

San Diego's defensive woes aren't nearly as bad as generally thought

San Diego's strength on offense might not be enough to vault them to a division title if the defense doesn't hold up its end of the bargain, which is something it didn't do in many ways last season. San Diego ranked tied for 25th in yards per play allowed, 22nd in points allowed and tied for 27th in passing touchdowns allowed.

But it wasn't all bad for the Chargers defense in 2011. Their 2.8 percent forced bad decision rate (a metric that gauges a defense's ability to generate mental errors by opposing quarterbacks) ranked 15th in the league and helped lead to 17 interceptions (ranked 13th).

San Diego also has a very good coverage player in Antoine Cason, as his 5.5 YPA-allowed mark ranked tied for 10th among cornerbacks.

Quentin Jammer, Cason's battery mate at cornerback, used to post numbers near Cason's level but fell off dramatically last season (11.5 YPA) in part because of some off-field personal issues. Now that those issues look to be resolved, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Jammer get back to his previous consistent coverage totals.

Add that level of improved secondary play with the aforementioned impact of Ingram and Reyes (who could work wonders for a pass rush that tallied only 31 sacks last year) and it should equal a much better performance on this side of the ball in 2012.

Combine those factors with the Chargers' motivation to prove the world wrong (something Williamson notes will work as a strong incentive for this team) and it gives San Diego the inside track to win the AFC West.
Tear it apart, OM.
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Old 08-06-2012, 05:21 PM   #2
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Stats are for losers.
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Old 08-06-2012, 05:25 PM   #3
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Same crap; different year. San Diego is always sports media's preseason pick to take the AFC West. They no longer have a "stacked" team built through season after season of top-5 draft picks; their O-line is suspect and behind a questionable O-line, Rivers also looks... less than stellar.
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Old 08-06-2012, 05:27 PM   #4
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PERFECT!!

Pick the Chargers AGAIN so that we fly under the radar and swoop in to take the divisional crown. It'll be so much sweeter that way!
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Old 08-06-2012, 05:30 PM   #5
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Old 08-06-2012, 05:40 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by RhymesayersDU View Post
Tear it apart, OM.
it was written by KC Joyner. So, that's just a start.
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Old 08-06-2012, 05:41 PM   #7
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it was written by KC Joyner. So, that's just a start.
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Old 08-06-2012, 05:49 PM   #8
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He cited Mel Kiper's draft grades to strengthe his opinion? BOOM!
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Old 08-06-2012, 06:06 PM   #9
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What is this, the 3rd or 4th year in a row for this.......Yeah, yeah, yeah.
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Old 08-06-2012, 06:07 PM   #10
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I thought it was a pretty good well thought out piece. I think the big issue for S.D. is one they will have to be able to stop Denver's running game and #2 I think their LBers are not a strenth and how will Denver's TEs fair in the matchup. I believe Denver's TE's will exploit the Charger's defense.

But I thought the article was pretty well thought out. Much better than a Burger Bill piece.
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Old 08-06-2012, 06:12 PM   #11
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Oh, come on. The Broncos are still the media favorite.
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Old 08-06-2012, 06:19 PM   #12
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Oh, come on. The Broncos are still the media favorite.
nuh-uh!! It's all Sandy Eggo, all the time!
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Old 08-06-2012, 06:26 PM   #13
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I have a hard time accepting the notion that Rivers is the best QB in the division after the way he played last season. Admittedly, Manning was out of the game altogether at the same time, so it's hard to really judge, but Rivers has never been better than Manning. I don't see any reason to think that has changed.

That said, I think this division is looking very unpredictable this season to be honest (other than the Raiders sucking--that's almost certain). The Broncos, Chargers, and Chiefs all have pieces in place, but none of them look even remotely like complete teams. So in the end it's probably going to boil down to who has the fewest injuries and the most lucky bounces.
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Old 08-06-2012, 06:26 PM   #14
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Why no mention of coaches?
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Old 08-06-2012, 06:50 PM   #15
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And yet for some strange reason the NFL always makes us play the games.....someone should tell KC Joyner that.
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:02 PM   #16
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Quote:
His perceived drop-off last year was nowhere near as precipitous as generally thought. As I pointed out in my 2012 fantasy football draft guide, Rivers still had over 600 pass attempts at a 7.9 yards per attempt (YPA) clip (ninth best in the league) and accounted for 28 touchdowns in 2011.
The only time he did anything last year was when I sat him on the bench in my FFL.

Quote:
The Chargers have the best set of receivers in the AFC West
Malcolm Floyd has had the injury bug too. And if you want to use stats, Decker had more TD's playing with Tebow than Floyd playing with the "greatest passer" in the division. Gates is great, when he's playing. The others, in that system, are unknown. So the statement reeks of bias.

Quote:
The Chargers have the best running back in the division
If Mathews is the best RB in the division, the division is in trouble.

Finally, and of utmost importance, they still have Norv.
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:09 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Tombstone RJ View Post
nuh-uh!! It's all Sandy Eggo, all the time!
Not with Manning on board in Denver. That by itself has 90% of the media calling for a repeat of 1st place in the AFCW.
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:10 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Agamemnon View Post

That said, I think this division is looking very unpredictable this season to be honest (other than the Raiders sucking--that's almost certain). The Broncos, Chargers, and Chiefs all have pieces in place, but none of them look even remotely like complete teams. So in the end it's probably going to boil down to who has the fewest injuries and the most lucky bounces.
Pretty fair assessment.
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Old 08-06-2012, 07:30 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boltaneer View Post
Oh, come on. The Broncos are still the media favorite.
According to who? I haven't seen very many people picking the Broncos. In fact an analyst on ESPN a few days ago said we wouldn't even have a winning record this year.


As for this analysis, there isn't much to it. I agree that Rivers is going to be better than he was last year. After that, the points fall apart.

He asserts that the Chargers have the best draft and that draft is going to help them. I'm sorry, but how can he know this? He then lists weaknesses in fantasy that all the Charger's division rivals will have to overcome. I'm sorry but fantasy stats are a pretty poor indicator of how many games a team will win. I like picking QB's with bad defenses because they throw for more yards playing catch up. That doesn't mean they win a lot of games, though.

His final point is the Chargers will play harder to "prove the world wrong" about them. Really? THAT is what's finally going to push the Chargers over the edge? All these seasons they didn't care, but now that some people say their window is closed NOW they are going to "try" to win games? Like they weren't trying before?

I am open to the idea that the Chargers are going to be resurgent this season. However I see them as the Eagles in the early 2000's where the other three teams were kind of muddling around in the NFC East and McNabb and company just kept getting chances on account of the division being so terrible. That's the Chargers for me. And now the rest of the division is catching up to them and they've lost a lot of talent. Rivers will always keep them as a threat to win any game, but I think they need some new good players before they can turn things around.
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Old 08-06-2012, 08:01 PM   #20
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Most media heads know as much football as your average message board poster. Unfortunately, they get all sorts of credibility just because they work for ESPN or they have a blog, etc.

Even a lot of the (ex-player) analysts don't come off very well. You can probably count the number of analysts in the media that seem to be worth listening to on one hand.

KC Joyner definitely falls into the less credible group. But I do think the Chargers have made a lot of great moves this off season.
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Old 08-06-2012, 08:01 PM   #21
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"The Chargers have the best running back in the division"



I made it all the way to this.
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Old 08-06-2012, 08:02 PM   #22
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NORV TURNER
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Old 08-06-2012, 08:05 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim View Post
"The Chargers have the best running back in the division"



I made it all the way to this.
Seriously, I almost choked (like the Chargers...).

The Chargers could very well win the division, but i suspect they will really miss Vincent Jackson. When you watch the film, much of Rivers' vaunted "deep passing game" has been chucking it up for Jackson. Jackson makes a huge difference downfield, and it will decrease Rivers' yards per pass average.
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Old 08-06-2012, 08:22 PM   #24
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NORV TURNER
It's funny how when these ESPN "experts" predict SD will win the division..some how they forget that their coach is Norv Turner...
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Old 08-06-2012, 08:26 PM   #25
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It's funny how when these ESPN "experts" predict SD will win the division..some how they forget that their coach is Norv Turner...
They never wrote off a Josh McDaniels team just because he was the coach, either.
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