Note: This originally ran last year, but it certainly fits this week!
I can't take it any more. It's time to set the record straight:
The Chargers don't "have the Colts number".
They don't "pose matchup problems"
Indy should not "be afraid" of them.
The Chargers are a good team. They are the second best team in the AFC. For that reason, and that reason alone, I hope Indy doesn't play them. However, should the matchup arise, I have no doubt the Horse will beat the Bolts in a tough, close game. Let's examine the myths around this matchup, and you'll see why I'm confident.
Myth #1 Going back to 2005...
STOP! Stop right there. We aren't going back to 2005. Why? The Chargers are a totally different team. They have a new coach, new QB, new defensive coordinator. The 2009 Chargers bear NO RESEMBLANCE to the 2005 Chargers. Why doesn't anyone go back to 2004 when Indy won? The 2004 Chargers have just as much in common with the 2009 Chargers as that '05 squad does. If we are going to have this discussion, let's center it on the last couple of years. I'm not sure they are relevant either, but it makes more sense than bringing up the fact that players and coaches wearing Chargers gear did something four years ago even though most of those guys aren't around anymore.
Myth #2 The Chargers have owned the Colts.
Since 2007, the Colts and Chargers have played four times. Three times the game was in San Diego. The scores:
San Diego 23, Indy 21
San Diego 28, Indy 24
Indy 23 San Diego 20
San Diego 23 Indy 17 (OT)
Yeah, see I don't think that beating a team 3 times in 4 games by a total of 12 points (with 3 home games) qualifies as "owning" anyone. They've played four tough, close games. Each of them could have gone the other way. That's hardly something to sweat over. All that list does is illustrate that the two teams play tight games. It hardly illustrates ownership.
Myth #3: The Chargers post matchup problems for the Colts
Really? Name one. The only true matchup problem for Indy has been NT Jamaal Williams verses Jeff Saturday. It has kept Indy from running the ball effectively, because Williams is a LOAD. Saturday is a fine center, but he cannot block Williams to save his life. Williams is now out for the season, so that's not a problem. Consider Indy's rushing numbers from the four games: 89 carries, 274 yards. That's less than 3.1 YPC. Take away the big load and the middle, and I would expect the Colts to be more effective moving the ball on the ground.
Take a look at the Chargers dynamic duo of Jackson and Rivers who I talk about in this week's Hangover (All right, I admit that wasn't even vaguely related to what I was writing about. It's just a gratuitous link)
Vincent Jackson hasn't play well against the Colts: 3 games, 11 catches 174 yards
Phil Rivers has just played ok against Indy: 71/110, 873, 5 TD, 4 INT, 88.9 rating
They are the heart of the Chargers offense now, and they certainly haven't lit Indy up in the past.
Myth #4: Manning struggles against the Chargers D.
This is a cutesy one, because he did have that one awful game in the rain when both Marv and Gonzo were out, the O line was a mess and dudes like Moorehead were running routes. Set that game aside for a moment and look at his numbers in his last three games against San Diego: 90/134, 967 yards, 6 TDs, 3 Ints, 93.7 rating. Indy's problem against the Chargers has been the utter lack of a run game thanks to Williams clogging the middle. People will trot out the cumulative stats from now till Sunday, and they'll look ugly. Any sample can be sunk by just one awful game. The truth is Manning has been fine against San Diego.
Both teams have had injuries when they've met recently, but Indy's were of a particularly damaging nature. During the first 2007 game, the Colts lost Dwight Freeney for the season. They also played that game with O-linemen they just picked up off the street, and WRs that weren't much better. Last year, Rivers spent all day throwing to Antonio Gates who ran wild because Gary Brackett was out. Indy/San Diego has been a fluky weird series full of close games. It's arguable that the 2009 Chargers are a better matchup for Indy than New England is. The Chargers may not be afraid of the Colts, but there is certainly no reason the Colts would fear San Diego at all.
The Chargers are a good team. I'll continue to root for them to wind up in the worst possible circumstance. That's not because of anything that happened in the past, however. It's only about right now.