Three Thursdays after Thanksgiving, the Chargers are simply glad to be alive in the AFC West. Tonight – in a matchup you can conveniently hear on the very radio station bringing you this website – they begin the dessert portion of their schedule, beginning with the San Francisco 49ers, who are kind enough to wear a cranberry sauce-like color on their unis. (Puff pastries will be served the next two weeks in the form of the Broncos and Bengals.)
Not that the NFC West is the laughingstock of football, but at 5-8, the Niners are just a game out of first place…just like the Bolts. And just like the Bolts, San Fran was expected to win their division in a walk this year. Unlike the Chargers, the 49ers are exactly where they deserve to be in the standings.
Former #1 draft pick Alex Smith is 21st in the league in passing. His backup, 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, if he had enough passing attempts to qualify, would rank 22nd. Their leading rusher, Frank Gore, is a midpack #15 in the league in rushing yards, but he’s 28th in yards per carry. Their defense? It’s #20 against the pass (translation: Rivers for 350 yards) and #9 against the run. Special teams? Mostly middle of the league.
The Niners are the very essence of meh, 5-8 overall, but 5-3 after an 0-5 start. The most interesting thing about them may be Jeff Reed, rebel placekicker, who is sort of a cross between Jimbo, The Situation, and Garo Yepremian.
It’s hard to see Alex Smith and his band of blah doing much through the air against the league’s top pass defense. On the other hand, with most of the Bolts’ receiving corps back in action, give or take the questions surrounding Antonio Gates and Patrick Crayton, the Phillip Rivers Flying Jamboree should continue to delight children everywhere.
Of course, we said that about the Raiders game two weeks ago, so perhaps the biggest thing the Chargers need to worry about is unforeseen consequences.