RENTON, Wash. -- I'll get to the upstart Cardinals, the recharged Chargers, Drew Brees tsk-tsk-ing the commissioner, what Peyton Manning hates and the third-round pick who leads all rookies in charisma. I know what you want. You want football. You want to see what I've seen. Five quickies from my first five camps:
SAN DIEGO -- The Chargers were nearing the end of an 11-on-11 passing drill last Wednesday when coach Norv Turner approached wide receiver Robert Meachem with an important question.
While the entire NFL world has been fixated on every detail and development in his year-plus battle with his neck issues, Peyton Manning wasn't the only player who had his 2011 ruined by injury. His lost season just happened to generate more media coverage than the plight of all other injured players combined, given that his absence set off a chain of events that rendered it the most impactful injury in league history.
The 1994 Chargers were the only team in franchise history to go to a Super Bowl -- they lost, 49-26, to Steve Young and the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX -- but over the years a sobering series of tragedies has cast a pall over that achievement.
Grieving for a fellow player is, sadly, nothing new for members of the 1994 San Diego Chargers. Legendary linebacker Junior Seau, who was found dead Wednesday of an apparent suicide, is now the eighth player from that team to die.
There's no way of knowing if the alarm clock went off playing "I Got You, Babe'' at Dean Spanos' bedside this morning, but Tuesday does seem a bit like Groundhog Day in San Diego. What's that they say about the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
The arithmetic is unrelenting. Since 1989, NFL teams have hired on average 6.5 new head coaches a year, and there have been a staggering 82 coaching changes made in the league from 2000-on. Only one team, the Philadelphia Eagles, has completely sat out the frenzy in that department, having brought a young and promising Andy Reid to town in 1999.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we stare down the last two weeks of the NFL's regular season, and the playoff chases that somehow still involve 22 of the league's 32 teams. That's right, it has taken us almost four months to eliminate all of 10 teams...
Four weeks remain in the regular season, and this is the time of year when we begin to convince ourselves that we see the 12-team playoff field taking shape in great clarity. But there are almost always developments and postseason drives that we didn't anticipate, and assumptions that get proven false as the final weeks of results roll in and upsets play havoc with our preconceived notions.
December must be the cruelest of months for Takeo Spikes. All those years, playing all those meaningless games, while so many other players around the NFL are in the midst of exciting playoff races with must-win showdowns just ahead, and Super Bowl dreams still alive and well.
Don't weep for Jack Del Rio. The just-fired Jaguars head coach was playing with house money. Or at least Wayne Weaver's.
CHICAGO -- It was a new venue, and new opponent, but the same old bleak sense of reality surfaced for the San Diego Chargers. The bleeding refuses to stop in San Diego, and now the Chargers are in critical condition with six weeks left in the regular season.
Here are the five things that worry me about the Chargers in the wake of their second straight late collapse, the 23-20 overtime loss at Kansas City on Monday night:
San Diego Chargers (4-1) at New York Jets (3-3)
The San Diego Chargers are 4-1 and heading into a bye, but that doesn't stop them from dominating your interest in this week's fantasy mailbag.
GREEN BAY -- "Do we play some of the most dramatic games in NFL history?!'' Greg Jennings said to me on Lambeau Field Thursday night, still short of breath from the end of Packers 42, Saints 34. I should think so. Let's try to make sense of the 10th Thursday night opener, the best one since the league went to the new concept in 2002:
SI.com is previewing all eight divisions throughout the week in anticipation of the 2011 season kicking off. (Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Excerpted from SCORECASTING: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won, by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim. Copyright 2011 by Tobias J. Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim. Published by arrangement with Crown Archetype, an imprint of the Crowne Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York.
Thursday night's game really should have been re-titled "Monty Python Tribute" night. Because they're not dead yet. Neither one of them.
I must be crazy to be part of 13 real fantasy leagues this fall. That's 13 leagues of last-minute lineup changes in September, 13 leagues of stressful wheeling-and-dealing before the November trade deadlines and 13 leagues of agonizing over RB/WR-flex options during the playoff weeks of December.
Here we go again. After yet another slow start to open the season, the Chargers are making their patented second-half run. They spanked the Broncos 35-14 on Monday night, extending their win streak to three games, improving their overall record to 5-5 and making their 2-5 start seem like a myth. No one should be surprised by this, of course. Slow starts and fast regular-season finishes have become the modus operandi since coach Norv Turner arrived in 2007. The Chargers lost three of their first four in his rookie season, but finished 11-5. They started 4-8 the following year, but finished 8-8 overall. And they won 11 in a row last season after a 2-3 start. What did we learn Monday night? Here are five things:
The futility of Chargers football has turned into one of the biggest statistical stories of the 2010 season -- and perhaps in recent football history.
If one question lingered more than others following the Chargers' 41-10 thrashing of the Cardinals last Sunday in Qualcomm Stadium -- besides, How did Arizona mishandle its quarterback situation so badly this year? -- it was, How does San Diego tight end Antonio Gates get so wide open so often?
It's Donovan McNabb-goes-back-to-Philly week, and we do love our reunion games in the NFL, don't we? With as much player and coach movement as the league features these days, every season provides a handful of reunion games of varying degrees of significance and intrigue. But some of them, like this week's, really deserve the screaming headline treatment.
For SI.com's complete previews of the other seven NFL divisions, click here.
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Jim Trotter had to say about the Chargers camp in San Diego. For an archive of all camp postcards, click here.
SAN DIEGO -- A.J. Smith's second-floor office at the Chargers' training facility has wall-to-wall glass windows, tropical plants and colored M&Ms in a large glass jar on his desk. There are practice tapes and a playback machine on the shelving along one wall, and a large magnetic white board hanging from another.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we prepare to hit the road next week for some NFL training camps and the stickiest, sweatiest portion of every football season...
Don Coryell stories from the SI Vault
The Drug Enforcement Administration has served 10 "administrative inspection warrants" at pharmacies and on physicians affiliated with the San Diego Chargers football and San Diego Padres baseball teams as part of an ongoing investigation, the agency said.
LAYING OVER AT JFK -- OK. Before I inflame a few more passions, the answer to the golf over-under I posed in Monday Morning Quarterback: one. I put one tee shot in the drink from the 17th tee at the TPC Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., at the annual Tom Coughlin/Jay Fund benefit golf outing. I stink at golf anyway, but this was the big time, and I really wanted to hit one good shot on a waterlogged day. I used one of those hybrid clubs, swung soft, hit it pin-high -- but 10 feet to the right of the island. Plunk. Good thing our fivesome didn't have to use my tee shot in the team format on that one.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla -- I'm playing the Stadium Course here at Sawgrass today, as part of the annual Tom Coughlin/Jay Fund tournament benefiting cancer-stricken kids and their families. Over/under on the number of balls I put in the drink at 17: 17.
NEW YORK -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we watched a prime-time version of the NFL Draft's first round from a raucous Radio City Music Hall ...
Some late-night musings, observations and the occasional insight as we officially welcome in the NFL's uncapped year and the start of a rather unique free agency period ...
The postgame reports said the Jets sealed their upset win over the Chargers last week when Kerry Rhodes recovered an onside kick, allowing his team to run the final two minutes off the clock.
SAN DIEGO -- Poignant weekend in a lot of ways, with the Canton-great careers of Kurt Warner and Ed Reed maybe coming to an end with bad losses, with the ageless Brett Favre Blanda-ing his way to the NFC Championship game, and with the most accurate kicker in NFL history taking the apple not once but twice in a crushing three-point loss to this year's Cinderella. And tragically poignant in a life unfulfilled, with the stunning death of a good man, Chicago defensive end Gaines Adams.
SAN DIEGO -- I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict the Colts will play their starters the whole way against the Jets this time.
Grading out the performances from the Jets' 17-14 win over the Chargers in the AFC Divisional Playoffs ...
SAN DIEGO -- Best weekend of the year in the NFL, always. And especially this year, because of the weirdness of the end of the season, when the two top NFC seeds had some very shaky moments and the Colts took their annual late-season siesta.
Breaking down the AFC divisional matchup, Jets at Chargers, Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS
I'm officially tired of the over-analysis of trends and momentum as it relates to NFL games, even though as a member of the media I am now part of the problem.The more I think about my mentality when I was a player and how I examine games now, the less I really believe that all of the hype leading up to the game really amounts to anything.
Time for the best weekend of the NFL season, when the elite eight pair off in four must-see divisional-round playoff games. Here are eight of the best storylines still looming:
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight after taking in three-fourths of the NFL wild-card playoff weekend and preparing to write a separate story after attending the fourth game ...
NEW YORK -- Five things I want to hit right at the top:
It seems cold to write about football and the Cincinnati Bengals, what with just one day passing since the death of wide receiver Chris Henry. Three children will grow up without a father. A life on the way to being better-lived was ended.
My weekly look at key matchups and storylines to watch in one game at each time slot. (All times Eastern).
Football Insiders: Check out Stewart Mandel's College Football Overtime.
DENVER -- Looking back, I really can't fathom how these two 6-3 teams were ever tied for first place to start with as this Week 11 Sunday dawned. The only thing I can figure is the standings doubled as the NFL's version of an optical illusion. Maybe it's like when they warn you about objects in the mirror actually being closer than they appear, only to the exact opposite effect in this case.
Breaking Down Sunday's San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos game (4:15 p.m., CBS)
After watching the Broncos lose for the second time in as many games Monday night, fans across the country channeled their inner-Denny Green voice before saying: "They are who we thought they were!"
After watching the Broncos outplay and outcoach the Chargers Monday night in a 34-23 victory that gave them a 6-0 record and 3½-game lead in the AFC West, a handful of truths became glaring ...
My weekly look at key matchups and storylines to watch in one game at each time slot. (All times Eastern).
Whether they'll ever admit it or not, a fast start in the NFL gets everyone -- fans, media, players, and even play-'em-one-at-a-time coaches -- dreaming about a magical run through January and the road trip to the game that's so big they use Roman numerals to identify it. Which way to the press conferences?
There's a lot to look forward to this weekend in the league -- Jake Delhomme and Jay Cutler trying to redeem themselves, the debut of the new Dallas stadium and its 168-foot-wide high-def TV hanging over the field, Rex Ryan putting up or shutting up, and the Lions trying to make me look smart for picking them to beat the Vikings. But the game that fascinates me is Baltimore at the beat-up Chargers in San Diego's home opener.
I know it's roughly the same story every year, but you gotta love the ability of the NFL's Week 1 to smash some of our preseason perceptions to smithereens while simultaneously re-enforcing other premises we held fast to as the season roared to life. Such as:
SI.com has dispatched writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. Here's what Jim Trotter had to say about the Chargers' camp in San Diego. For an archive of all the camp postcards, click here.
Every year about this time, you can count on trendy NFL predictions making the training-camp rounds. You could practically set your calendar to them, like the swallows returning to Capistrano. If NFL training camps are in full-swing, it must be time to pick some NFL sleepers, surprises and flops.
The NFL Draft has been over for almost 72 hours, which is more than enough time to discern who'll be the impact rookies of the 2009 season. What? You expected us to wait all the way until training camps opened and actual football started being played? Get real.
After reaching an agreement with running back LaDainian Tomlinson on a three-year restructured contract Tuesday, club president Dean Spanos issued a statement that said: "This is a good day for the Chargers and for Chargers fans. It was important to me to get this done so LT could continue his career here in San Diego where he means so much to our team, our fans and our community. The alternative was just unthinkable. He belongs in San Diego."
LaDainian Tomlinson is staying with the San Diego Chargers.
The buzz of a second consecutive spectacular Super Bowl has begun to die down, and the last of the head coaching vacancies has been filled, so it's time to fully turn our attention to an NFL offseason that is upon us. Here are a dozen burning questions that serve to preview the many issues to come:
"Two things I always knew about my league, the NFL: You don't ask for favors, you don't hang around. A man might love the game, but the game loves no one. The game will use what he has, [then] discard him. The sh-- isn't personal." --Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, in his autobiography, Out of Bounds.
Grading out the performances during the Steelers' 35-24 divisional-round win over the Chargers (Recap | Box) on Sunday ...
Breaking down Sunday's San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers divisional-round matchup (4:30 p.m., CBS)...
The San Diego Chargers had just completed the best game of their season and the best game of wild-card weekend, but wide receiver Vincent Jackson sat quietly at his locker. Jackson had run some nice routes against the Indianapolis Colts and thrown some tough downfield blocks, but receivers judge themselves on the passes they catch, and Jackson did not catch any.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we wrap up the first three games of what is somewhat inaccurately called the NFL's wild-card weekend from a raucous and purple-bedecked Metrodome ...
SAN DIEGO -- Back in September, as Peyton Manning prepared for a trip to Minnesota, he reflected on a game that was played at the Metrodome 11 years ago and forever altered the course of two organizations -- the Colts and the Chargers.
After a loss to visiting Atlanta on the final Sunday in November, the Chargers had all but resigned themselves to playing for nothing but pride over the final month of the season. They were 5-8 and three games behind the Denver Broncos with four to play in the AFC West. It would take a collapse of historic proportions for San Diego to reach the playoffs a third consecutive year.
NEW YORK -- First, perspective. One of the 10 best football players in history died the other day in Texas. It's important you know about him. There will be no forgetting Slingin' Sammy Baugh in this column. No sir. I'll write about him a bit later, but here's a tease: He had the best year a football player ever had, and there can be no possible argument on that from any Jim Brown fan, any Walter Payton fan, any Unitas, Montana, Marino, Brady, Butkus or Lawrence Taylor fan. Sixty-five years ago, in 1943, on a Redskins team with shrunken 28-man rosters because of the great war, Baugh led the NFL in:
Musings, observations and the occasional insight while watching the strange doings of a Week 15 that from start to finish I just didn't understand ...
As the Cardinals and Titans close in on playoff berths, they are in the remarkably similar situation of being led into January by their former backup quarterbacks, who happen to be playing in the final year of their contracts.
LOS ANGELES -- Early Monday evening, two hours before his annual bowling tournament was set to begin at Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood, Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman approached a clerk and requested that one lane be opened. "I've got to practice," he said.
Musings, observations and the occasional insight as the snow starts to really fly at a Lambeau Field left morose by the Packers' late-game fold job against Steve Smith and the playoff-bound Carolina Panthers ...
The Chargers' decision to fire defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell on Tuesday was about one thing: Norv Turner covering his own backside.
Two months down, two months to go in a NFL regular season that has defied conventional wisdom even more than most. You know the drill. It's midseason review time...
The calendar says it's Patriots-Chargers week, but of course this isn't the same game we had circled since the moment the NFL schedule came out in April. There's no Tom Brady for New England. There's no Shawne Merriman or even a healthy LaDainian Tomlinson for San Diego. And there's no first-place standing for either AFC perennial power. The Chargers are trailing the 4-1 Broncos in the AFC West, and the Patriots are chasing the surprising 4-1 Bills in the AFC East.
Breaking down Sunday's New England Patriots at San Diego Chargers game (8:15 p.m., Eastern, NBC) ...
Jets quarterback Brett Favre called Monday night's game against the Chargers a must-win. San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson found that to be a curious statement considering the Jets were 1-1 and the Chargers were 0-2.
Maybe it's a case of trying to connect too many dots, but I'm starting to believe there's never been a worse time to be a highly drafted quarterback in the NFL. Going in the first or second round may get you paid like you're one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but it sure doesn't guarantee that you'll get to play. At least for long.
The Eagles were tremendous last night. All that stood between them and beating the best team in football on the road was a botched Donovan McNabb-to-Brian Westbrook handoff with nine minutes left at the Dallas 33, trying to expand on a three-point lead. That's a once- or twice-a-year event, that kind of stupid play, and it shouldn't take away from what the Eagles showed the country in a scintillating football game.
Two weeks into the NFL schedule and already some preconceived notions and preseason perceptions are dying off one by one, or rapidly becoming out of date. Harsh reality has begun setting in on any number of fronts. What we thought we knew has been replaced by what we've seen so far.
NEW YORK -- When Cris Collinsworth walked out of the eighth-floor NBC "Football Night in America'' studio Sunday night around 8:15, he closed his eyes and shook his head back and forth four or five times quickly, in sort of a Jack Buck I-don't-believe-what-I-just-saw moment.
The glory of the AFC is slain upon thy high places. How are the mighty fallen? (Samuel II, almost).
Every Monday, SI.com's Michael Lombardi will hand out five letter grades to deserving NFL parties...
Peering into my Roger Goodell-autographed crystal ball -- it's actually more oblong-shaped -- just hours before the NFL kicks off its regular season with the Redskins-Giants showdown at the Meadowlands, here are 10 things I foresee unfolding this year.....
There are exactly 267 games that matter in an NFL season, and it's always a guessing game to predict the winners and losers. But when I searched for my projected Super Bowl matchup after six weeks of watching, listening and learning this preseason, I kept coming back to two teams that have what I consider the key factor in any Super Bowl run: Motivation that borders on an obsession.
SI.com has dispatched 10 writers to report on the 32 NFL training camps across the country. For the complete schedule of postcards, click here.
His summer fun in the sun vacation to Key West, Fla., over, A.J. Smith went back to work Tuesday morning, beginning the long, slow push of the rock back up the hill that the NFL season requires. And while I can't be 100 percent certain of it, I'm willing to bet the first thoughts that ran through his head once the Chargers general manager hit the lights in his office were mere echoes of the ones he's been having for most of the past two years now:
Don't know if you've heard, but the color that will be all the rage in the NFL this fall is brown. Cleveland Brown. It'll be everywhere. Just watch.
The Chargers have hired former Kansas City assistant Charlie Joiner as their wide receivers coach and could be on the verge of hiring former Falcons assistant Ollie Wilson to be running backs coach, a team source said Wednesday.
The locker room slowly emptied on Sunday evening, and the clusters of media thinnned. The New England Patriots had beaten the San Diego Chargers 21-12 to earn a place in Super Bowl XLII, and now equipment managers emerged from a laundry room and began hanging gear from the metal hooks in players' dressing cubicles: numbered (but nameless) white jerseys with blue pants for the offense, blue jerseys with gray pants for the defense. Mesh bags with socks and undergarments for everyone.
With no disrespect to the NFC's Giants-Packers undercard, top billing this weekend goes to the AFC's main event, where the surprising challengers from San Diego try to knock out the NFL's undefeated heavyweight, the Patriots of New England.
Before we get to this weekend's key matchups, it's worth noting a couple of statistical trends that almost always end up being the key to winning in the postseason:
SI.com's Don Banks had a veteran NFC insider assess the Chargers-Patriots matchup.
One of the toughest games to pick in a long time. A long, long time. I'm torn.
Commonly held NFL wisdom states that a team will only go as far in the playoffs as its quarterback takes it. This theory isn't necessarily true. No one would argue the Chargers' Philip Rivers is a better quarterback than the Colts' Peyton Manning or that the Giants' Eli Manning has produced a better body of work this season than the Cowboys' Tony Romo. Upset wins by San Diego and New York prove it's not the QBs. Games are ultimately won and lost in the trenches.
One of them had his name virtually turned into a punch line in recent years, and it was often said of him that as a head coach he made a heck of an offensive coordinator. The other one spent a good bit of the past two seasons playing the role of a piñata, taking blows from all directions while folks stood around and debated when he'd crack.
I used to root for the Indians in westerns. When I saw some movie about Britain and the Zulu Wars, I'd pull for the Zulus. What killed me about all those movies was the way the battle scenes always went -- Zulus or Indians or some kind of native warriors attacking British troops or cowboys or other well-armed forces, but the attackers never had guns. They'd have spears or arrows or fancy war chants. Never seemed fair to me.
Antonio Gates was hurting as he made his way to his locker. The San Diego Chargers' Pro Bowl tight end had just played four quarters with a dislocated toe, and the pain racing from his foot to his brain was so severe he couldn't find the words to describe it.
You know who Sunday's biggest winner was, don't you? Somehow, without even playing a game, it was Bill Belichick's 17-0 Patriots who fared better than any one on the second day of the NFL's divisional-round playoffs.