Sometimes you just have to pull for players. I have two enduring images of Philip Rivers from his time at NC State. The first one is the trick play his freshman year that saw him catching a touchdown pass against UNC. It was the Wolfpack's first football win over Carolina in what seemed like forever(which was an odd feeling, given that I was a Jr. at the time and had been raised on Duke rather than State), and that play was the icing on the cake.
The other one - and probably the more important one - is from Rivers' final game with the Wolfpack. A blowout win in a crappy bowl that underscored just how heinously State underachieved during that season. Rivers was clearly, in spite of the bowl he was in, having the time of his life. Laughing on the sideline with his teammates, asking which of them had yet to score a touchdown in the game, and if they would like one.
He isn't that guy in San Diego. But I still pull for him pretty hard, hoping that he'll ease into a spot that lets that guy come back for NFL fans to see. He'll be back in the playoffs this year, the question is whether or not he'll be in as a heavily favored team or a misnamed #4 seed. Either is possible.
4. Kansas City - The good news? Larry Johnson seems to be healthy. The bad news? He and Tony Gonzalez combine to form roughly 90% of the talent on that offense. Defensively, the Chiefs made some quality draft choices (Glen Dorsey and Brandon Flowers) and should frustrate a lot of offenses. In the end, though, you need points to win a game. The defense will be good, but not a point-producing one. And the offense, even with a healthy Larry Johnson, doesn't have enough punch.
3. Oakland - The Raiders have a scary amount of talent. And something to prove. But As long as Al Davis is in charge, mediocrity is the best they can hope for.
2. Denver - They'll show up to every game. Win some they should lose. Lose some they should win. Ultimately, though, they won't have an impact on the NFL-at-large.
1. San Diego - This defense is built to take the ball away from you. They'll get tons of pressure on the quarterback, and have all-universe corners in Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. Of course, the Chargers offense is also still stacked with an embarrassment of talent. The problem is that it's injury-prone talent. If Rivers, Gates, LT stay healthy? This could be the best team in the AFC(especially with Chris Chambers coming in on the ground floor for this season). If not? Still playoff bound, maybe even with the bye.