While it still may be too early to say the San Diego Chargers have turned the corner in their 2013 campaign, the signs the last two games certainly look much more encouraging.
After a big 19-9 win a week ago Monday at home against AFC South-leading Indianapolis, the Bolts followed that up this past Sunday with a dominating 24-6 performance at winless Jacksonville.
Okay, while the Jags are not exactly going to scare anyone, this was just the type of scenario in the recent past where the Bolts would go into a game and essentially play down to their opponent. All one has to do is hark back to last year's 7-6 flop at lowly Cleveland and this season's 27-17 loss earlier this month at rival Oakland.
With the win at Jacksonville, the Chargers headed into their bye week (next game is Nov. 3 at Washington) with a 4-3 mark. Given Denver's 39-33 loss Sunday evening to the earlier mentioned Colts, the Bolts sit two games back of second place, three games behind front-running Kansas City (7-0) in the AFC West.
In looking at the team's first seven games, here are some thoughts to pass around:
* Chargers could be unbeaten - The case can be made that San Diego could be right up there with unbeaten Kansas City after seven weeks. Two fourth quarter collapses against Houston (L 31-28) and at Tennessee (L 20-17) left San Diego with a 1-2 record after three games. The third loss, the defeat in the Bay Area to the Raiders, was a game where San Diego basically was asleep for the first 30 minutes or so of action. After rallying within 24-17, QB Philip Rivers put up a pair of ugly interceptions to help hand the Chargers their third loss. On this night, however, it was a total team effort in losing to their arch-rival;
* Consistency is key down the stretch - The remaining nine games will not provide the Chargers with what could be considered an automatic victory. Four games with rivals Denver and Kansas City, another meeting (at home Dec. 22) versus an unpredictable Oakland team, could go a long way in determining the outcome of the season. Whether playing the best or perhaps the worst in the AFC (minus Jacksonville of course), the Chargers need to bring the same high intensity effort to each game;
* Health is critical - A patchwork offensive line helped lead the Chargers to last Sunday's win in Jacksonville. A question mark coming into the season, the O-Line will need to mesh together over these final nine games or it could spell trouble for both Rivers and the team's running game. Speaking of the latter, running back Ryan Mathews has looked good the last couple games. As consistency was noted earlier, Mathews will need to continue to stay at that level or even better over these next nine contests in order to take some of the pressure off of Rivers to always move the ball down the field.