In preparation of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. San Diego Chargers Monday Night Football game, I got to sit down with John Gennaro from Bolts from the Blue (SB Nation's Chargers website) to discuss different facets of this upcoming prime time game from the San Diego perspective.
Take a look at the great insight from the other side of the fence, including some really good statistics on Michael Vick's history against the Chargers. For the best insight on this upcoming game head over to Bolts from the Blue for all you'll need.
Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers will forever be connected as a part of the 2004 NFL Draft class. How pleased are Chargers fans with Rivers, considering Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have multiple Super Bowl rings?
I think all three fanbases are pretty happy with the QB that they drafted. The Steelers have the better defense and franchise, and the Giants had better injury luck during their Super Bowl runs than the Chargers have ever had.
I don't think anyone would look at Rivers and say that he's incapable of winning a Super Bowl, just that he hasn't caught the breaks and hasn't had a good team around him in recent years.
Considering Eli said he wouldn't play for San Diego and the off-the-field issues that have followed around Ben, I think most Chargers fans would tell you that the team made the right call in getting Rivers (and Merriman and Kaeding) in that deal.
The Chargers are a team which continues to contend despite a lot of turnover. What are the keys to their success the past few seasons, as well as their hopes for the 2015 season in the competitive AFC West?
It's almost entirely Philip Rivers.
I'm not joking. This will be Antonio Gates' first game back this year, but Rivers hasn't exactly missed him. It doesn't seem to matter who he's throwing to or who his running back is, Rivers just puts up points. Even when the defense is atrocious, the team either contends or continues to win because of Rivers.
He's good enough that, if you put him on a team like Tampa Bay today, they'd go 8-8 and probably have an outside shot at 10 wins because they actually have more WR talent than the Chargers do.
Unfortunately, Rivers can't get the team to the playoffs and win games there by himself, and this year that's essentially what he's been trying to do. So far, he's 2-2. The team's hopes past the regular season will depend on if the rest of the team can find a way to catch up to him.
There are a lot of unknown names on the Chargers' defense, but they are making plays. How will the Chargers defense try to stop Michael Vick, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell in prime time?
If by "making plays" you mean giving up 27 points to Josh McCown and the Cleveland Browns, then yes, they do that.
Seriously though, the Chargers have a lot of half-players filling their defense. Eric Weddle is great but is in full protection mode with free agency coming up (he won't resign with San Diego). Manti Te'o is great at being where the play is, but can't actually tackle. Melvin Ingram is a beast rushing the passer....as long as there's no threat of a run play coming at him. Jason Verrett might be the league's most talented cornerback but we'll never know because he's never healthy enough to get on the field.
You get the idea, and John Pagano doesn't often do himself favors with the scheme because we can't all be Dick LeBeau.
Expect lots of soft coverage underneath, Cover 2 and Cover 3, to keep Bryant and Brown from getting huge chunks on yards. Expect the front seven to try and overload, hoping to guess which side a play is going, to stop Bell and get to Vick.
If the Steelers have any sort of short-passing game or a decent offensive line, they should put up points...even with Vick at QB.
The Steelers gave up over 190 yards on the ground in Week 4 against Baltimore, will the Chargers look to exploit the Steelers' front seven on the ground, or will this be a game where Rivers throws 40+ passes against a very suspect Pittsburgh secondary?
Everyone, including the team themselves, would love for it to be the former. The Chargers go into every game hoping that they can have 35 carries split between Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, and Branden Oliver to the tune of 200+ yards and a big advantage on time of possession.
The problem, it would seem, is that the team gives up on the run quickly. They have a lot of issues running inside the tackles, due to some poor health on the offensive line, so they usually stop doing it in the second quarter and settle for the occasional draw play as a change up to the high-volume passing attack of Rivers. I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen again, especially against a suspect secondary.
Both of these teams are 2-2 heading into Monday night. How do you see the game playing out, and what is your prediction?
Before I go into that, it's worth remembering the connection Vick has to the Chargers. Years before Philip Rivers, the Chargers had a 1-15 season that set them up with the #1 overall draft pick, which was going to be Michael Vick.
Instead of taking Vick, the Chargers ended up trading that pick (much like they traded the Eli Manning pick a few years later) for what amounted to LaDainian Tomlinson, Drew Brees, and a couple more toss-in players.
Since then, Vick has faced the Chargers four times. Once as a Falcon, twice as an Eagle (once as a backup), and once as a Jet. He's actually been pretty good against San Diego, totaling 693 passing yds, 4 pass TDs, and just 1 interception. You can also go ahead and add in the 83 rushing yds and 2 rushing TDs to that.
Yet, despite that, Vick is somehow just 1-3 against the Chargers. Even that one win was a 21-20 squeaker during his prime years with the Falcons.
So, I'm going to push in my chips and place my bet on weird history to continue. I think Vick plays pretty well and somehow the Chargers escape with a win. 24-20 San Diego.