It’s hard to imagine a better scenario for the San Diego Chargers than the matchup they will have in Week 11. Not long ago it would have been considered borderline insane to say traveling cross-country for a 1 p.m. local start time was a good thing, but this year the Bolts have shown a resiliency and a real knack for overcoming adversity. Mike McCoy’s crew is a team galvanized behind their core leadership which is a direct contrast to Sunday’s opponent in the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins are a team in disarray thanks to the scandal surrounding the Richie Incognito–Jonathan Martin saga. Miami just dropped a game to a previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has had its own share of internal strife this season with Greg Schiano’s hot seat like the surface of the sun. The Dolphins have been hurt in multiple ways by the controversy surrounding the team, not the least of which has been on the field with two offensive line starters out and quarterback Ryan Tannehill running for his life.
Sure this matchup may not seem like it’s tailor-made for the Bolts, but in the 2013 season with the circumstances surrounding it this game is a must-win for San Diego.
Entering the game both squads are tied just behind the 5-4 New York Jets in the AFC wild card race. Miami and San Diego are amongst a slew of middling AFC outfits in the hunt for a playoff berth this January, and getting a win on Sunday will certainly help either side’s chances.
Trying to beat the Dolphins is going to take more than a conflict within their squad, however. The Bolts will need to execute much better defensively than they did against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos just last week if they want to end up on the winning side of the scoreboard. Although they did make the final score respectable thanks to a stiffening defense and perked up offense in the second half, spotting the Dolphins any kind of lead will likely be to San Diego’s detriment this week.
The key for coming out victorious this Sunday for the Chargers is going to be finishing. Obviously that seems like a given in any game, but the Bolts have been troubled by an inability to put games away when they should easily roll on to the win. One big element of that is getting the running game going with the trio of ball carriers finding success against a Dolphins defense that has been quite generous against the run this season allowing 119.1 yards per game which ranks 25th in the NFL. Using Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, and Ronnie Brown will help keep an already suspect run defense off balance and suck the safeties down into the box to open up the play-action passing attack.
This game is going to come down to execution for the Chargers. Just how effectively the team exploits its advantages combined with how well it can mask its own deficiencies – mainly a banged up offensive line and suspect secondary – will be a key element toward deciding Sunday’s outcome. Look for the Chargers to make a case for why their playoff candidacy shouldn’t be considered fraudulent just yet.