The ice has been broken on the 2013 NFL season - well, for the most part, anyway. It's not quite the regular season, but it's football, and we're getting closer. But enough of that, the San Diego Chargers come to town tomorrow. Again, things are weird in the preseason.
Last Year: 7-9, good for second in the AFC West. The Chargers last season had exactly the same amount of points allowed as points scored, with an Expected W-L of 8-8 (measured off point differential), which more or less puts them at exactly average last year.
This Year: Currently, they're 0-1 in preseason as they lost to the Seattle Seahawks 34-10 in week 1.
When Last We Met: The 2011 matchup against the Chargers effectively ended Jay Cutler's season, but Cutler went out in style, as the Bears took the matchup 31-20. That loss pushed the Chargers to 4-6 on the season - it was also noteworthy because Kellen Davis caught a touchdown. But enough side-shots. The Chargers came back to win four of their last five to push to 8-8.
Total Points: 350 (20th in NFL)
Total Yards: 4756 (31st)
Rushing Yards: 1461 (27th)
Passing Yards: 3295 (24th)
It's really interesting to note that in 2011, the Chargers had the sixth-most yards, 5th most points, and 6th most passing yards. So what the hell happened?
Well, the short answer is the receivers haven't done their job. When Vincent Jackson departed in free agency, you'd think they'd be okay with Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates, along with young first-round pick Ryan Mathews. ... Not quite. Mathews only played 12 games in 2012, Gates only picked up 538 yards on the year, and Floyd matched his #2 production as a #1. That doesn't get things done. 2011 third-round pick Vincent Brown didn't play a down in 2012, which probably would have helped. Draft picks D.J. Fluker and Keenan Allen need to contribute pretty much immediately.
The other part of it is the offense ran about 60 fewer plays in 2012 than 2011, and that chunk largely correlates to a drop in passing attempts by Rivers. It's not that Rivers has been bad - last year he had better completion percentage and fewer interceptions (dropped turnovers in total, actually) while still throwing 26 touchdowns - but sixty less pass attempts will do silly things to a quarterback's stats.
Total Points: 350 (16th)
Total Yards: 5223 (9th)
Rushing Yards: 1542 (6th)
Passing Yards: 3681 (18th)
The defensive actually statistically improved over 2011, and that's after being on the field for an extra sixty snaps. Passing yardage took a hit in the rankings, but the Chargers only allowed another hundred or so yards from 2011. The rate stats actually improved - net-yards-per-attempt dropped from 7.0 in 2011 to 6.1 in 2012. Rushing yards per attempt dropped from 4.4 to 3.8 in 2012.
They've been really pouring draft picks into the defense the last couple years. 2011 was Corey Liuget, Marcus Gilchrist, and Jonas Mouton; 2012 was Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes, and this year was Manti Te'o. Remember when Shawne Merriman was the key on their defense? They're laying a young foundation on their offense, and it's actually not turning out bad to this point.
If the Bears do this...
I've already written about what I'm watching for with the game action (and with preseason game 2, the starters will get a little more play this round), so I'd actually like to see what the starters do with their extended time. I'd like to see Brandon Marshall and the remainder of the Bears' starting offense get a touchdown in their time on the field, and I'd like to see the ball move. I know, baby steps.
If the Chargers do this...
The biggest worry for the Bears is pass-rush. The Chargers may have had no one with double digit sacks, but they can get rush through their line as well as their backers. A good pass-rush will disrupt any offensive timing the Bears hope to have, as we've seen all too frequently - the line needs to show up.