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Chargers are 4-1, with room for improvement

Miami Dolphins v San Diego Chargers

SAN DIEGO, CA - OCTOBER 2: Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers prepares to enter the game against the Miami Dolphins during their NFL Game on October 2, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San DIego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

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The Chargers are up next in our “state of the franchise” series. We’re checking in with each team as they hit their bye week.

Last week, we tackled the Cowboys, Redskins, Ravens, Dolphins, and Browns.

Winning ugly

The Chargers are 4-1, but they haven’t looked especially impressive. They have just scraped by against some of the worst teams in the league. The combined record of the teams they beat: 4-16. (Or 4-12 when San Diego isn’t playing them.)

Winning ugly is still major progress in San Diego. They’ll take that any day over losing with the top-ranked offense and defense.

Evolving offense

The offensive line is playing very well. Ryan Mathews (fourth in yards from scrimmage) has evolved into the player the Chargers thought he would. Only two teams have attempted more runs than the Chargers; they’ve vastly improved on the ground.

Surprisingly, the struggles have been more about the passing game. Philip Rivers has made more mistakes than usual. That MVP season will have to wait.

Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd have been nicked up or inconsistent. Antonio Gates has been hurt, but should return. The receiver depth is poor after that, but Rivers has made enough plays to win. They have really missed Gates.

“It’s going to come together at some point,” Rivers said this week.


The Chargers gain a lot of yards and prevent yardage well, but it doesn’t show up on the scoreboard. This is largely due to turnover margin (-5), which was a big problem last year. Their red zone offense has also been poor.

The biggest difference

San Diego’s special teams units aren’t even average overall, but at least they aren’t gagging games away for the Chargers. That, in addition to the favorable schedule, has tipped the scales for this team.

Next stop, division title?

We anticipate a two-team AFC West race between the Chargers and Oakland. The eye tests says the Raiders have played better thus far, but the eye test doesn’t mean much.

Because of San Diego’s schedule, we really aren’t sure how good the Chargers can be. We’ll find out soon. The schedule gets much tougher, starting with a trip to the Jets after the bye. (The last 4 games are particularly tough: Bills, Ravens, at Detroit, at Oakland.)

The Chargers have survived so-so play while winning games.

“Every year you have a little different personality, and we might just be a little bit of a different personality than we’ve been the past two or three years,” Norv Turner said via Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

That’s not a bad thing. The Chargers have the personnel on both sides of the ball and the right quarterback to be Super Bowl contenders.

4-1 with a lot of room for improvement is a nice a place to be.