We didn’t need to see the Chargers beat down the Broncos 35-14 on Monday Night to know they were dangerous.
We’ve seen this story before, and it usually ends with an AFC West championship. The 5-5 Chargers can’t survive any more special teams meltdowns, but there’s an argument to be made that this group is more complete than last year’s 13-3 squad.
Philip Rivers — who threw four more touchdowns against Denver — is the constant. He had a legitimate MVP case last year, and that’s the case again. The difference this season is the supporting cast.
The running game: Mike Tolbert ran for 111 yards Monday. The Chargers don’t have “The Guy.” They are still getting plenty of production from Tolbert, Darren Sproles, and Ryan Mathews. Sproles caught a 57-yard touchdown. Tolbert had 42 yards receiving. They’ve improved from the league’s worst group last season to a workmanlike unit that can keep defenses honest.
The secondary: Quentin Jammer is playing at a Pro Bowl level, as is safety Eric Weddle. They held Kyle Orton to 5.4 yards per attempt on 38 passes Monday. Statistically, the Chargers were below average last season. They entered this week second in yards-per-attempt allowed.
The pass rush: The group had 26 sacks all of last year. Shaun Phillips recorded three of the team’s five sacks on Monday night. The Chargers already have 32 for the season.
The Chargers head to Indianapolis next Sunday night, then host the Raiders and Chiefs in succession. The next three games will define San Diego’s season.
With Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson on their way back to add more offensive weapons, there are plenty of reasons to think the Chargers will close strong.
Just like usual.