Thursday, December 31, 2009

Chargers: Only AFC division winner favored this week

It’s interesting to see how three of the four AFC division winners are decided underdogs this weekend.

Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts are a 7-point underdog at Buffalo (no wonder if you saw the Colts forfeit to the New York Jets last week.)

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are 8-point dogs at Houston.

Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati Bengals are 10-point underdogs at the New York Jets.

No wonder each of these teams are touchdown-or-more underdogs since they will be resting key players for the playoffs.

The exception this weekend?

Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers are a 4-point favorite at home vs. the Washington Redskins, even though the Chargers will have key players such as Shawne Merriman sit out the entire game.

How could this be?

Simple. It shows how good the Chargers are ... and how bad the Redskins have become.

This certainly will be Jim Zorn’s last game as head coach. Who knows if new GM Bruce Allen will keep Jason Campbell as his QB.

All in all, it looks like the Chargers will have another weekend to remember with their 11th straight win.

Chargers 24, Redskins 13

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New York Jets receiving two byes into the playoffs?

Have you ever heard of an NFL team getting two byes in the regular season before making the playoffs?

Welcome to the 2009 edition of the New York Jets.

It’s well-documented how the Jets were handed a win last week when the (then) undefeated Indianapolis Colts rested the likes of Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney and Gary Brackett after taking a 15-10 lead on the Jets in the third quarter.

Now the Jets get to conclude their regular season against a playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals team probably resting such stars as Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco for much of the game.

There you have it: Two straight division-winning opponents facing the Jets, two consecutive teams that will likely hand New York a victory.

And who said you can’t make the playoffs the easy way?

The sad part is that the likes of the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and (maybe) the Pittsburgh Steelers could all be denied playoff berths due to teams lying down for the Jets.

Coach Rex Ryan, QB Mark Sanchez, DB Darrelle Revis and the entire New York squad can thank the schedule makers for saving the best teams for last ... when they already had playoff berths in hand.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Say goodbye to Saints, Vikings in postseason

Say goodbye to the New Orleans Saints for the NFC playoffs.

And while you're at it, take Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings with you.

All of a sudden, it looks as if the winner of this week's Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys game will not only win the NFC East ... it may also become the favorite to win the NFC.


The Saints certainly aren't going to cut it if they can't even beat Tampa Bay at home to clinch the NFC's No. 1 seed.

And with Favre and coach Brad Childress arguing, don't expect the Vikings to go anywhere in the postseason (not to mention the fact Favre normally fades after November.)

New Orleans (13-2) won nine of its first 11 games by double digits. After a 38-17 win over New England, the Saints appeared better situated than ever to make the franchise's first run to the Super Bowl.

Since then, the Drew Brees and Saints have pulled out a pair of three-point wins over non-playoff teams and have lost two straight -- both at home -- starting with a 24-17 setback to Dallas.

Don't forget Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals. They could again fly under the radar and capture the NFC for the second straight season.

As for New Orleans and Minnesota ... their runs were nice while they lasted.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Mountain West Conference more than BCS worthy

With six bowl games down and 28 to go post-Christmas, one thing is for certain:

The Mountain West Conference is more than BCS worthy.

The conference is already 3-0 in the postseason, with Air Force vs. Houston and Texas Christian University vs. Boise State still to come.

Most impressively, have you seen how the Mountain West has handled the supposedly superior Pac 10 of the BCS?

How about QB Max Hall and the Brigham Young Cougars running all over Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl?

Or what about true freshman QB Jordan Wynn and the Utah Utes whipping Jeff Tedford’s California Bears in the Poinsettia Bowl?

On top of that, Wyoming beat heavily-favored Fresno State to start the postseason in the New Mexico Bowl.

The BCS does not automatically include the Mountain West, so there’s only one way to make a statement.

The BYUs and Utahs will just have to keep beating the Oregon States and Cals.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

NFL plays Scrooge to Chargers on Christmas

What is it about the NFL that does not agree with the San Diego Chargers at Christmas time?

OK, so the Chargers didn’t play on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day last year ... because there were not any NFL games on those days.

But go back two years and those were the Chargers hosting the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football on Christmas Eve; which happens to be the holiest day of the year to some people.
Fast forward to this year and you have the Chargers playing at the Tennessee Titans on Christmas Night.

Is this fair to Norv Turner, Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Luis Castillo, Shaun Phillips, Shawne Merriman, Quentin Jammer and all on Christmas?

No way.

First of all, this is the NFL Network’s "Thursday" game on a Friday. The game certainly could have been played on Saturday ... or the day after Christmas ... just like last Saturday’s Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints game.

In addition, the Chargers are traveling 2,000 miles to play the game; more than any other team has traveled all year for a non-Sunday or -Monday game. And, yes, it is Christmas.
So the Chargers must say thanks to the NFL for once again playing Scrooge with their Christmases.

Titans 23, Chargers 20

Monday, December 21, 2009

Denver Broncos starting to look ugly

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have looked horrible all year, but at least they looked as outstanding as Buccaneers cheerleader Marlana Aref (see above) with Sunday’s win over the Seattle Seahawks.

What team has gone from beautiful to horrible this season?

Try the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos are trying hard to become the first team ever to start 6-0 and not make the playoffs. Losing to the Oakland Raiders ... and JaMarcus Russell of all people ... was certainly a major embarrassment.

All of a sudden, the team with Kyle Orton, Brandon Marshall and Elvis Dumervil doesn’t look quite so sexy anymore.

After all, any team that could blow a three-game lead with three to play as the Broncos did to the San Diego Chargers last year is capable of any choke job.

On the other hand, the Chargers continue to look like the team most capable of eventually knocking the currently undefeated Indianapolis Colts out of the playoffs.

Not only have the Chargers booted the Colts out of two straight playoffs (and beaten them four of the last five times), the Chargers are no longer under the radar with nine straight wins.

Philip Rivers should be joining the MVP conversation. Vincent Jackson should be gaining much respect as a wide receiver, and Antonio Gates is hard to overlook at tight end.

As much as the Broncos have gone from beautiful to ugly this season, the Chargers have been just the opposite. Look out for them in January ... and maybe the Super Bowl in February!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Chargers hope to warm up for playoffs vs. Bengals

The San Diego Chargers have good reason to want a special victory Sunday vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.

Not only would it be win No. 9 in a row for the Chargers, it would also all but seal the No. 2 seed for them in the AFC Playoffs.

What would it mean for the Chargers? A first-round bye, an AFC semifinal game at home … and a chance to host the AFC Championship if the Chargers were to win in the AFC semifinals and the Indianapolis Colts were to lose that weekend.

But more than anything, a win this weekend would keep the Chargers from going to Cincinnati for the playoffs. Anybody who was at the Chargers-Bengals “Ice Bowl” game on Jan. 10, 1982 will never forget it.

According to, the temperature during the game at Cincinnati reached minus-9, with winds gusting to 35 mph, creating a wind chill of minus-59. Almost forgotten was the fact that Cincinnati won over Dan Fouts and the Chargers, 27-7, on its way to a Super Bowl appearance.

The “wind chill” will be about 120-130 degrees warmer when the teams play Sunday in San Diego. And the winner will be hot on the trail of the No. 2 seed.

Chargers 27, Bengals 20

For a visit back to the Ice Bowl, visit the story at

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NFL season is more bizarre than ever

Have you ever witnessed such a topsy-turvy season in the NFL?

It seems like more teams than ever have gone from bad to good – or good to bad – within the course of a season.

The good:

How about the Tennessee Titans going from 0-6 to 6-7 (and possible playoff contention) behind the play of QB Vince Young?

What about the Miami Dolphins going from 0-3 to 7-6 with second-stringer Chad Henne at QB?

And how about the San Diego Chargers going from a 2-3 start to 10-3 behind the MVP-type play of QB Philip Rivers?

Then there are the Green Bay Packers recovering from a 4-4 start to be 9-4 with QB Aaron Rodgers suddenly receiving some protection.

The bad:

Who could have imagined the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger going from 6-2 to 6-7 … and losing to the Cleveland Browns!

How about that 3-0 start of the New York Jets turning into a 7-6 season?

And don’t forget the suddenly-crippled Atlanta Falcons going from 4-1 to 6-7.

The indifferent:

Who would have thought the Denver Broncos would be sitting at 8-5 after winning their first six games?

And how about those supposedly invincible New York Giants slipping to 7-6 after a 5-0 start?

Indeed, there has probably never been a season quite like this in the NFL.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chargers: Team the Indianapolis Colts fear most

As a head coach last season, Tony Dungy could never say he feared one team more than another because of coaching decorum.

But now that Dungy is an analyst for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, he can be a straight-talker.

When asked recently which team the undefeated Indianapolis Colts fear most in the AFC, Dungy’s answer was straight to the point: the San Diego Chargers.

After all, these are the same Chargers who snapped Dungy and the Colts’ nine-game winning streak in the wild card round of last year’s playoffs in San Diego.

The previous season, the Chargers knocked the Colts out of the AFC semifinals at Indianapolis in a game-winning drive led by second-stringers such as Billy Volek, Michael Turner and Legedu Naanee.

Going further back, the Chargers snapped the Colts 13-0 record (sound familiar?) with a 2005 win at Indianapolis led by the likes of blitzing linebackers Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips.

Certainly, Peyton Manning of the Colts and former San Diego QB Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints are the talk of the NFL this season by leading their respective teams to 13-0 records.

But Manning and his Colts know that Philip Rivers and the Chargers could very well be lurking in their playoff picture.

Ask Tony Dungy: He’ll tell you that is not a comforting thought for Indianapolis.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cowboys ready to upset Chargers this weekend?

Wade Phillips is loved by members of the San Diego Chargers’ defense.

Problem is he’s now head coach of the Dallas Cowboys ... not defensive coordinator of the Chargers.

LaDainian Tomlinson grew up loving the Dallas Cowboys.

Problem is he’s still the star running back for the San Diego Chargers, who have won seven straight games.

Igor Olshansky was a fan favorite with the Chargers but now plays for the Cowboys.

DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys was picked one spot ahead of San Diego’s Shawne Merriman in the 2005 NFL draft … and Merriman hasn’t forgotten.

Yes, there will be lots of coincidences when the Chargers and Cowboys meet for the first time in four years Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

Philip Rivers of the Chargers is proving to be as good of a quarterback as there is in the NFL. Tony Romo of the Cowboys seems to be more hooked on being Tony Romeo with the women than a winner of crucial games in the NFL.

The Chargers haven’t lost a game in December since 2005. The Cowboys seemingly haven’t had a winning December since Roger Staubach was QB (OK, a little bit of an exaggeration.)

Since the Chargers don’t lose in December and the Cowboys don’t win, that should make Sunday’s game an easy pick.

Not so fast!

Cowboys 23, Chargers 21

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

San Diego Union-Tribune turning to smut?

The San Diego Union-Tribune prides itself on supposedly being a family newspaper that reaches over 1 million readers per week.

You can challenge the 1 million figure; but there’s no doubt that the paper is NOT all about families. (In fact, it appears to be trying to keep up with the recent image of Tiger Woods ... or should we call him Cheetah Woods?)

For proof, just check out today’s sports section.

On Page D3, there are two advertisements that immediately catch your attention:

One shows a couple making out with the ad reading: “Erectile Dysfunction? Premature Ejaculation? Last 45 Minutes to over 2 hours.”

The ad other shows the face of a girl looking ready to go with the copy reading: “Adult Gentlemen’s Studio Private Dances.”

Then on Page D4, there is a hot-looking couple with the ad: “Erectile Dysfunction? Premature Ejaculation? Last Up to 60 Minutes!”

The new owners promised changes when they took over the Union-Tribune earlier this year.

Unfortunately, it looks like daily smut is among their biggest alterations.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tomlinson proves classiest player in the NFL

The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t even win at home against the lowly Oakland Raiders.

The New England Patriots couldn’t hold a 9-point lead vs. the Miami Dolphins.

So much for the six-time champion Steelers and the three-time champion Patriots (all in this millennium.)

You want someone with real class in 2009?

How about trying LaDainian Tomlinson of the San Diego Chargers?

As soon as LT passed former Cleveland Browns great Jim Brown for eighth on the all-time rushing list, he knew what to do Sunday.

Tomlinson immediately patted his heart and saluted Brown from where he was sitting in the stands.

Earlier this season, Brown had stated the Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was the most complete back in the NFL.

Even though this was a slight to Tomlinson, it did not impair his sight of NFL history.

Of all the classy moves in the NFL this weekend, none was more significant than Tomlinson saluting Brown.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chargers looking good down the stretch

All of a sudden, the San Diego Chargers have been looking as good as the girlfriends of Tiger Woods.

In fact, you could say the Chargers have been as hot as the likes of Rachel Uchitel, Jaimee Grubbs … and probably many more names to come.

Speaking of names, part of the reason for San Diego’s six-game winning streak involves unheralded players suddenly making a name for themselves.

Linebackers Brandon Siler and Tim Dobbins have emerged due to injuries to the likes of Shawne Merriman and Kevin Burnett. In the secondary, Paul Oliver and Steve Gregory have been shining with Eric Weddle injured for a couple of weeks and Clinton Hart no longer with the team.

As for the offense, give credit to linemen such as Scott Mruczkowski and Brandyn Dombrowski filling in well for Nick Hardwick and Jeromey Clary while they are injured.

Sure, it’s the likes of QB Philip Rivers, WRVincent Jackson and RBs LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles who make the team go. But the recent success would not have been possible without the success of a patchwork offensive line.

The Chargers virtually receive a “bye” this week when they play at Cleveland. Then comes a critical three-game run at Dallas, home vs. Cincinnati and at Tennessee on Christmas. (They’re undefeated the past three Decembers, but that has no bearing on how they will play this year.)

The three-game stretch at month’s end will determine how well they look when the playoff seedings come out after the first weekend of January.

Chargers 30, Browns 13

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Paciifc Life Holiday Bowl should pursue USC

Bobby Bowden should be commended for his 44 seasons as a college football head coach.

Charlie Weis should be able to find a job as an offensive coordinator in the NFL.

Tiger Woods should be ashamed of his extra-marital affairs.

OK, since that’s out of the way, let’s get on with what the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl should be doing.

The Holiday Bowl gets the No. 2 pick from the Pac 10, but it should not take the loser of Thursday night’s Oregon-Oregon State game.

Why? Because this is the first chance the Holiday Bowl will ever have to secure the USC Trojans for the game.

Oregon has been to the Holiday Bowl for two of the past four years. And while Oregon State has never played in the game, it certainly doesn’t bring the prestige of USC.

After all, an event such as the Holiday Bowl will only get the Trojans in a “down” year (they are 8-3 going into Saturday’s regular-season finale vs. Arizona.)

USC does not have its weapons of the past, but the Trojans are building with younger players who could be in the Holiday Bowl in 2009 … and in the BCS Championship within the next couple of years.

It will be interesting to see how freshman QB Matt Barkley continues to develop under coach Pete Carroll and his staff. Junior running back Joe McKnight is within 21 yards of a 1,000-yard rushing season, and the defense has such rising stars as sophomore linebacker Chris Galippo and junior defensive end Everson Griffen.

As for an opponent, the Holiday Bowl should take Nebraska in a second if it loses to Texas in the Big 12 Championship.

After all, few bowls outside of a BCS game will ever get a USC-Nebraska match-up.