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NFL Sneak Peak – The San Diego Chargers

NFL Football Futures Betting – 2009 NFL PreSeason Analysis – Chargers Football Gambling

The San Diego Chargers almost screwed themselves until the final month of the season, losing eight of their first 12 games. At that point they had to win the rest of their games and get some help from Denver, and that’s exactly what happened.

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Getting into the playoffs as an 8-8 team (7-8-1 ATS) wasn’t enough, however, as San Diego won its divisional round game against Indianapolis before losing to eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh.

Is this the year they take it to the next level?

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

Odds To Win AFC West

San Diego Chargers +160

Denver Broncos +400
Kansas City Chiefs +800
Oakland Raiders +1000

To Win Super Bowl: +1400
To Win AFC title: +650
To Reach Conference title game: +325
Regular Season Wins: Over 9.5 -150, Under 9.5 +120

Phillip Rivers came of age as a quarterback last season. The oft-maligned N.C. State product passed for 34 touchdowns last season and chalked up a 105.5 passer rating, at the same time bouncing back from off-season surgery, to gain some respect and some “street cred” and established himself as one of the best at his position. It was literally a crime that Brett Favre was initially named to the Pro Bowl ahead of him. Basically Rivers has the same cast returning, and he’ll look for more out of Antonio gates, the Pro Bowl tight end who caught 60 passes last season and was bothered by a bunch of nicks and little hurts that slowed him down.

Vincent Jackson (1098 yards, 18.6 per catch) is the deep threat, and he should be able to team up with Chris Chambers (only 33 catches in ’08) to offer Rivers some balance. Malcom Floyd, who averaged 17.2 yards per reception, may also step up his contributions this year.

The big question, as far as we’re concerned, is LaDanian Tomlinson, who was hurt in the AFC title game the year before and gained just 1110 yards in the 2008 season, posting only 3.8 yards per carry in what was his worst pro season to date. Running backs often break down at this point in their careers, and the Chargers allowed his backup, Michael Turner, to sign with the Atlanta Falcons, where he made All-Pro and was tied for second in the league MVP voting.

This is not to say that the running back who stayed behind, Darren Sproles, can’t get the job done. Indeed, Sproles is an explosive option, averaging 5.4 yards a carry and 21.4 yards per reception. But Sproles is not big enough to be used on every down, so San Diego will face a quandary if Tomlinson is once again slowed down by injuries and/or attrition.

To many San Diego fans, the key on defense will be the return of three-time All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman, who added that menacing element to the pass rush that was missing last season. Only the Seattle Seahawks allowed more yards through the air than San Diego, and if Merriman can make a full comeback from the injury that should have kept him out for all of last season (he foolishly played one game), his skills at pressuring the passer should make the secondary more effective.

Jamal Williams, who has made three Pro Bowls, gives this team great service at the nose tackle spot, but the Chargers need to decide whether Ryon Bingham or Jacques Cesaire is going to man the position of left defensive end, or of they’re going to alternate. With Merriman and newcomer Larry English (the first-round draftee out of Northern Illinois), San Diego hopes to hurry opposing QB’s, letting Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie (who led the league with 10 intercpetions in 2007) make some plays.

Special teams is something the Chargers don’t have to worry about too much, with standouts like placekicker Nate Kaedling, punter Mike Scifres and return man Sproles. All of them are among the best at their respective positions.

Here’s the deal – Denver is headed for decline with stumbling, bumbling new coach Josh McDaniels and without Jay Cutler; Oakland is once again going to struggle for respectability, and Kansas City is rebuilding. That opens the door for the Chargers, the -300 favorite in the BetUS NFL odds, to walk away with this division, and with the distinct possibility of five or six wins in the division alone, moving past 9.5 wins is more than likely, and +1400 to win it all might not be a bad investment.

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  1. Matt Martz says:

    The Chargers will once again be loaded with talent both offensively and defensively. QB Philip Rivers is coming off his best season as a pro and has proven to be of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He led the league in passer rating and finished the 2008 season with 11 TDs and only 1 INT, lifting the Bolts to a division title. Rivers is poised to have another big year and with running backs Ladanian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles the Chargers should chock up the points. The defense is solid with the return of Shawn Merriman at OLB. San Diego will finish the season with a 13-3 record.