The trendy pick: The Chargers (for the 9,786th time), could win it all
Why this pick makes sense:
If there was a Trendy Pick Lifetime Achievement award, it would bear the San Diego Chargers' name. Year after year, the Chargers are everyone's pick to go ahead and finally take the last step. Year after year, they fail.
As a famous former President from southern California would say, well, there you go again.
It's true. With Shawne Merriman returning healthy, a tremendous quarterback in Philip Rivers looking better than ever, a balanced offense, a healthy defense and LaDainian Tomlinson starving for a ring, here go the Chargers. Again.
Usually, the Chargers find a way to get full reading so many press clippings. Several factors point to a different end to this story. Foremost, the franchise player, Tomlinson, is now 30. That's a magic number for NFL players. It's that time when they look back at what they have and haven't accomplished, and come to significant decisions.
Tomlinson seems to have "the look" in training camp this year. He is determined to do anything to get that elusive ring, similar to the John Elway look after so many times falling short.
The Chargers are healthier, too, than they've been in a couple of years. And in a division they should easily win, getting some rest and a bye come playoff time could make a world of difference.
Why it may not fly:
Norv Turner is the head coach. Some would say that alone makes a Super Bowl run impossible.
Turner infamously has taken more than one team to terrific starts and high hopes, only to see them deflated. He is a brilliant play-caller who has yet to be a strong leader for an organization.
Unfair? Not really. The Chargers certainly could make injuries an excuse for the dismal end to the 2008 season. But the fact remains that since Marty Schottenheimer was ousted after a 14-2 season, Turner's Chargers have slipped to 11-5, then 8-8.
And what about the clock on the wall? Time is undefeated. Tomlinson may have a chip on his shoulder in hopes of proving critics wrong, but he is 30. That doesn't change. And Merriman broke down last year. He's not old, but he's been suspended for steroids and steroid-users have been known to break down much more easily.
The Chargers also have serious questions to answer along the offensive line and in the secondary, where time is catching up as well. They should have enough to win the division, but against better competition another disappointment could loom.
So, will it happen?
Yes. This time, yes. The Chargers could finally get over the hump. Ultimately, players make the biggest difference, and while the Steelers, Patriots and Colts are deservedly favored, San Diego's talent takes a backseat to no one.