Ben on the Bolts: Chargers vs. Raiders

Time once again for my Chargers "3 Questions" blog: A question that was answered, a question that was left unresolved, and a new question that was created during the course of the game. Here's the Chargers vs. Raiders edition:

QUESTION ANSWERED: Can the Chargers win without their "A" game? Good NFL teams find a way to win against bad opponents, even when they're dealing with some injuries or make a couple of mistakes. The Chargers aren't one of those teams. They'll win some games this season, but they'll need to do it with great performances by Philip Rivers and big plays in the 4th quarter. I don't think we'll be seeing an ugly 16-13 victory from this team.

QUESTION UNRESOLVED: How important is Ryan Mathews to the Chargers? A lot of fans have been suggesting that the Chargers should trade the running back, arguing that he's too inconsistent and injury prone. Well, the concussion Mathews suffered in Oakland is another knock against #24 in the latter category, but I thought the game was also telling. Without Mathews, the Chargers were forced to rely on heavy doses of Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown, playing outside of their proscribed roles, and the results were awful...just 1.7 yards per carry. Without Mathews to keep Woodhead and Brown fresh, and tire out defenses a little, the Chargers quickly become one-dimensional on offense.

QUESTION CREATED: Can the Chargers climb out of a 2-3 hole and still be a factor in the AFC Wild Card race? It seems likely that the AFC West champion (Denver or Kansas City) won't lose more than 3 games all season (Barring an injury to Peyton Manning, 8-3 seems like a worst-case scenario for the Broncos). That means the Chargers only playoff hopes rest in the Wild Card. The good news? The Bolts are just a game out of the final AFC playoff spot, currently held by the 3-2 Dolphins, with 11 games still to play. The bad news? There are 7 other teams at 3-2, 2-2, or 2-3, who currently stand between the Chargers and Miami. Without a conference win on their resume, the Chargers currently lose every tiebreaker in the book, and would likely need to go 9-2 in their final 11 games to assure themselves of a playoff spot at 11-5. Does anything you've seen from the Chargers so far make you think they could win 9 of their next 11 games?

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