Both the San Diego Chargers and the Tennessee Titans are hoping that the second half of the NFL schedule works out in their favor.
The Chargers’ first half was marred by heartbreak, posting a 3-5 record, as all five losses were by a touchdown or less and often times with victory nearly in hand. The battered and bruised Chargers have already surpassed the most difficult part of their season having played the defending Super Bowl champions (and division rival) Denver Broncos twice, splitting the series. With upcoming games against teams with losing records like Cleveland, Carolina (starting to play better), Miami and Tampa Bay, San Diego can possibly get back into the wild card hunt.
The Titans on the other hand are starting to blossom — all things considered — sitting at 4-4 and just a game behind the first-place Texans in the lowly AFC South. But the .500 mark at the halfway point is a bit of a misnomer for Tennessee fans as the Titans have yet to actually beat a team with a winning record. So how good is a team that hasn’t beaten one that actually wins more than it loses? The second half schedule doesn’t do Tennessee any favors either with games against Green Bay, Denver, Kansas City and Houston still on tap.
Tennessee at San Diego
Kickoff: Sunday, Nov. 6 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: San Diego -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Phillip Rivers vs. Titans’ Secondary
Lost in the shuffle of headline quarterbacks, is the another quiet and steady season from Rivers. Sure, it doesn't help his case that his team sits at 3-5, but Rivers has put himself in the upper tier of elite NFL signal-callers, all in his age 34 season. Rivers has already thrown for 2,285 yards and 15 TDs, all without a premier target at his disposal as injuries have wrecked his receiving corps.
This week, Rivers faces a Tennessee pass defense that has already given up 33 plays of 20 yards or more, the second most in the league. Also, the Titans have a bit of an ailing secondary as safety Rashad Johnson is listed as questionable and Parrish Cox is recovering from a concussion, but is expected to play.
2. Ending the West Coast Drought
Only eight players on the current Titans’ roster were a part of the two-tone blue the last time the team played and lost in San Diego in 2012. But the pain for Tennessee fans dates back well beyond that. Try 23 years. Since 1990, the Titans franchise (originally the Houston Oilers) is winless against the Chargers in San Diego, tallying road losses in 2012, ‘10, ‘08, ‘07, ‘06, ‘04 and 1993.
While the players and coaches are quick to dismiss the notion of losing in San Diego being a big deal, it simply seems odd that a franchise could have such bad luck against one team in a certain city. Sports can be weird sometimes.
3. Marcus Mariota vs. Chargers’ D
Mariota’s progress in his second year has been a hot topic in Nashville. Many pundits feel the dual-threat gunslinger has regressed this season. Maybe, maybe not. The numbers don’t show much either way.
But two big things happened this offseason that certainly will help Mariota in the long run – the addition Demarco Murray in the backfield and the rearranged offensive line. With a fortified front line, Murray has run wild, currently second in the NFL in rushing with 756 yards, while scoring a total of eight touchdowns. The additions of Ben Jones and rookie Jack Conklin have solidified what was one of the worst O-lines in football a season ago, giving Mariota much more time to throw.
The Chargers come into this week’s matchup with the No. 6 rush defense in the league and have a good chance of at least slowing down Murray, forcing Mariota to make plays with his arm or legs to move the chains.
This game is as close to a toss-up as it gets. I think it will come down to which team can make a play on defense and pressure the quarterback effectively. The Titans are one of the best in the NFL at getting to the quarterback, entering this afternoon’s game tied for second in sacks with 22.
Prediction: Titans 24, Chargers 21
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.