Cincy has yet to lose at home this year, and the Bolts were held to their lowest point output of the season (10) in the Week 13 meeting between these two teams. San Diego barely squeaking by a team of second-stringers fielded by the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 17 certainly doesn’t help instill and additional confidence in the Bolts either, but now the team is also dealing with some unwanted distractions heading into its first NFL Playoff appearance since 2009.
Following that win over the Chiefs on Sunday, one of the most pleasant surprises on the team this year in linebacker Thomas Keiser was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor battery after an altercation at a bar. His 4.5 sacks this year have been a welcomed addition to a pass rush that has been ravaged by injury, but this latest incident puts a damper on his 2013 campaign where he went from a final roster cut to starting outside linebacker. Though Keiser will probably still be available to the team on Sunday against the Bengals, there’s no question this type of negative attention is a real downer at this juncture.
The other potential distraction is more of the positive variety, but it could still have a detrimental impact on the team this weekend. Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has done a remarkable job this season in revitalizing Philip Rivers under center, getting Ryan Mathews on track in the running game, and developing Keenan Allen as a standout rookie receiver. His work with the Bolts has been getting noticed around the league according to sources, and that has his name surfacing among some of the leaders to take over a vacated head coaching gig when San Diego’s season concludes.
Although this will likely not have a truly negative impact on the team this weekend, it never helps to have any ounce of your focus taken away by a potential distraction. Whisenhunt has been down this road before having already been a head coach with the Arizona Cardinals in the past, but his ability to keep the Bengals’ impressive defense off balance will be vital to the Chargers having any chance of moving beyond the Wild Card round. The team will need Whiz’s play-calling to be on the mark if they want to get their first playoff win in half a decade.
Hopefully the Chargers can compartmentalize these potential diversions and put their best efforts forth on Sunday against the Bengals. These events certainly won’t aid their cause, but the Chargers could spin these as a positive way to be extra focused on the task at hand.