Player Stats & Notes
Philip Rivers has been recharged with a Pro Bowl campaign, he has yet to score below a QB Rating of 80.
In the last six seasons Rivers has ranked in the top six of passes thrown away, actually leading the league three times in that span. Up to this point under a new coaching regime, only 8 passes have been throw away which ranks 21st among quarterbacks.
Offensive weapon Danny Woodhead leads the team with 112 touches: 2nd on the team in rushes and touchdowns, while leading in receptions. The versatile running back has 59 carries for just under 25 yards per game, that number could increase if he bumped up his 3.8 yards per carry. Being the key to the offense, he has also tallied 53 catches for about 45 yards per game through the air. In total, he’s average 9 touches for 70 yards each week, scoring in every other game on average.
Ryan Mathews has two games where he ran the ball 20+ times for 100+ yards, the team won both of those games. That brings up the interesting debate: Maybe he should be getting the ball more to produce those types of numbers, however the flip-side is that he has not been the most durable player. The staff appears to be utilizing him the right way, the limited touches have kept him fairly healthy to average 60 yards a game and four yards per carry.
Future Hall of Fame Tight End Antonio Gates is healthy, which means he is having his usual Pro Bowl season. He leads the team with 74 targets, 2nd with 52 catches, notching nearly 70 yards each week. He has moved the chains just like old times, his 33 first downs rank 3rd among tight ends and 15th overall when you include receivers. Twice has he gone over the century mark with 100+ yards and the Bolts scored 30+ points in both contests.
Receiver Keenan Allen has really come on as an Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. He runs routes like a veteran, similar to a former Chargers receiver with his name, Keenan McCardell. He has quickly become a dependable go-to guy with the attention that Gates continues to garner. He is the leading receiver that has escalated as the main target of moving the chains for first downs, his 31 are only a couple behind Gates (tied for 20th in the NFL). Realize, he did not start the first couple weeks of the season, and so far he has three games torching secondaries for 100+ yards.
This weekend’s game against the Dolphins features a matchup to have your sights on, receiver Keenan Allen going up against cornerback Brent Grimes. You got the scoop on Allen already, and as for Grimes, he sticks to number one receivers like glue (much like before his injury) and the former Pro Bowler picked off quarterbacks in both games that he was targeted 10 times.
Eddie Royal has seven touchdowns on 28 receptions this season. Meaning, since 25% of his catches go for scores, they should target him more in the redzone as he seems to find the seems in a defense.
Backup tight end Ladarius Green is quietly emerging in his second season as a pro. Averaging 21 yards per catch, all seven of his catches on the year have gone for first downs. This might be a weapon the staff is easing into the offense, especially with the leading threat of trios Gates, Allen, and Woodhead. Green is earning himself more playing time, not in place of Gates however, but forcing the issue for more two-tight end sets. Any player that gets 21 yards per catch should merit more targets as the Bolts prepare for the stretch run for a wildcard spot. He will not be a primary focus for defenses (and shouldn’t yet), so when he’s on the field he will see single coverage against a slower linebacker or a smaller safety. This guy is not only waiting in the wings as another athletic tight end, but he could be a major factor either this or next season.
According to ProFootballFocus, offensive tackle King Dunlap has recorded an overall grade of +10.3 (there are positive and negative ratings, grading each player). The biggest issue for Dunlap has been staying on the field, but when he is you will notice solid pass protection and he’s dominant in the ground game.
Rookie tackle D.J. Fluker is on the other side, Dunlap usually plays the blindside, but he’s set to miss another game which has Fluker slated to start in his place. Fluker is having an impressive campaign in his own right. He was known as a strong run blocker, which he has been hot and cold with so far by getting overpowered, but is actually excelling as a pass blocker. He has a positive grade according to ProFootballFocus, despite struggling last week at both tackle positions when he allowed a season high six pressures.
Filling in at guard, Johnnie Troutman, has paid dividends in terms of running the ball.
Kicker Nick Novak has been more reliable than not, only missing three field goals heading into week 11. All of his misses have come in different games, all of which the team has lost. Those three misses all fall in the 30-39 yard range, so it’s interesting to see that he is a perfect 7/7 from 40 and 50-yards out.
Another year that Punter Mike Scifres is doing his thing for the special teams. He has punted 23/33 times inside the 20-yard line, six inside the 10-yard line. He is certainly doing his job to give the team an edge in the field position battle.
Eric Weddle paves the way with 70 tackles and six passes defended for the defense.
In a stat that may seem apparent after the fact, five of the top six players leading the team in tackles play in the secondary. Behind Weddle, and Donald Butler places third right now, are: Marcus Gilchrist, Derek Cox, Richard Marshall, and Johnny Patrick. That’s not going to win games for you because the goal is to cover receivers, not allowing them to catch every pass. The silver lining here is that they’re making tackles, right?!
Again, not many guys making plays in the secondary this season, the four interceptions have come from four different players: Derek Cox, Marcus Gilchrist, as well as defensive linemen Cam Thomas and Sean Lissemore (who took it to the house for the score).
Defensive Lineman Corey Liuget and Outside Linebacker Jarrett Johnson lead the team with an underwhelming three sacks a piece. Linebacker Larry English notched 2.5 sacks, but was placed on injured reserve (biceps) and probably played his last game with the Chargers.
Offensive Team Stats & Notes
The quarterback play coincides with Head Coach Mike McCoy’s gameplan and Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s play-calling. San Diego ranks 4th in time of possession by controlling the ball for 33 minutes per game.
The offense also ranks 4th in passing yards, completions, and tied for 4th for allowing the fewest sacks so far (16).
The offense ranks 7th overall, which is 2nd best in the AFC (only behind the division rival Broncos).
The offense ranks 2nd in first downs, passing for first downs, and third down percentage.
The offense has only fumbled thrice which ranks 7th in the league.
Unfortunately, the ground game ranks 19th with the 6th fewest rushing touchdowns (4). More success running the football obviously opens things up downfield, especially on play-action. Perhaps the passing attack can alleviate some pressure in the box to improve these numbers. The offense has been matriculating the ball up and down the field, moving the chains and milking the clock, but you can only do so much to aid a struggling defense.
Defensive Team Stats & Notes
The defense has given up the 4th most yards in the league (394 yards per game, nearly 400 yards to opposing offenses).
The defense also allows the 4th most yards per carry (4.8).
They also give up the 5th most passing yardage, as well as the 5th fewest passes defended.
They rank 20th against the run and in sacks (22).
The defense has forced the 2nd fewest interceptions (4) and 4th fewest fumbles (5).
Let’s finish the defense stats on a positive note, despite the concerning numbers, San Diego ranks 13th in points allowed (22.4)
This week 11 game in Miami will be the first time that linebackers Donald Butler and Manti Te’o are on the field together. This could be a boost to a defense that desperately needs it, at the very least against the run. The way the offense attempts to control the game, forcing teams to pass can make opponents play faster than they would like to while keeping them cold on the sidelines in between drives.
Prediction at Miami Dolphins
San Diego travels to the other coast as a 2-point favorite. Miami is coming off a loss on Monday Night Football, after losing a couple of offensive linemen. That loss came to an NFC team, and a win-less team, but it being Tampa Bay playing in the Florida bowl. Needless to say, this has not been the best year for NFL teams residing in Florida, as the Jaguars have just won their first game and the Buccaneers are still recovering from the MRSA infection.
After a 3-0 start, Miami has fallen from the graces of playoff hopes into turmoil. The widely publicized situation between former teammates Jonathan Martin and Richie Igcognito has imploded the Dolphins locker room. Second year quarterback Ryan Tannehill has started a season and a half of games now, and the converted receiver had enough transition to begin with, let alone the other issues surrounding him. Head Coach Joe Philbin is trying to hold things together in his second season as coach, however his running back tandem hasn’t produced. Their top free agent acquisition, receiver Mike Wallace, has been more of a headache than a contributor. Lamar Miller is growing into the role at running back, the thing is that they have faced, for the most part, the bottom half of run defenses in the league.
Miami is attempting to shore up the line overnight, but I will tell you that their focus has been in the wrong places since day one. Sure, Brandon Gibson and now, Rishard Matthews, are producing in the slot. It’s like this team is trying to ignore the fact that Brian Hartline has arrived, they’re not trying to get him the ball as much as they should. Regardless, the Chargers give up yards and there’s not many excuses for them not to move the ball. All-purpose gem, Charles Clay, has been used as a fullback, running back, and tight end. Whatever they have to do, get this guy involved because he is a stud that just goes about his business and unfortunately, has gotten lost in the fold.
As for the visiting team, the Bolts hope to make it pour on a team that’s already been rained on, and they should strike this weekend. In no way will this game be a blowout, none of these teams is good enough to even do that, but San Diego should win this road game unlike the one in Washington a couple weeks ago. If they find themselves in a similar scenario, you go for the win at the goal line. They will have to send extra blockers and chip blocks at the pass rush, most notably Cameron Wake and Dion Jordan. Aside from them and top corner Brent Grimes, they should move the football enough to win. The usual suspects for the Chargers should come out and do what they do. That means Woodhead, Gates, and Allen, taking advantage of having a good quarterback against a struggling defense. Even Ryan Mathews can make some noise. Something about the Dolphins defense ranking in the bottom half against the pass and run tells me to bet on the two point odds, that is if you’re into betting. Miami’s defense only allows one point more per game than San Diego’s, so the game should be in reach throughout.
Chargers 24, Dolphins 20.