They are who we thought they were?

In light of the Bolts' bounce-back victory after a season-opening dud in the desert, we analyze the win over Seattle by using a famous Cardinals catchphrase: they are who we thought they were.

They are who we thought they were, Part 1: Antonio Gates

This was supposed to be the season Gates passed the torch to Ladarius Green, the dynamic third-year tight end who was selected ahead of Gates in many fantasy football drafts. But in two games, Gates has 13 catches for 177 yards and three scores while Green has just two catches for 24 yards.

Gates is serving notice he is not ready to ride off into the sunset. He and Philip Rivers have connected for more touchdowns than any QB-TE tandem in league history (65); by season's end, Gates has a chance to rank in the top-three all-time in receiving yards by a tight end (behind Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten) and in the top-10 in all-time receiving touchdowns (just one behind No. 10, Isaac Bruce).

In short, Gates has served a quick and clear reminder that he is still the player Chargers fans have come to know and love: one of the top-two tight ends in league history.

They are who we thought they were, Part II: Ryan Mathews

Even after his breakout 2013 campaign, the Bolts were hesitant to offer Ryan Mathews a long-term contract for two reasons: he puts the ball on the ground too often and he cannot stay healthy. Both of those issues came to light in the home opener, as Mathews fumbled twice, spraining his MCL while recovering the second one. He is expected to miss about four weeks.

San Diego was prepared for this scenario. The team's biggest free-agent acquisition, Donald Brown, will step into the starting role. Brown averaged 5.3 ypc on 102 attempts with the Colts last season. The Chargers do not even have to add another running back, as the team had been carrying four halfbacks. Undrafted rookie Branden Oliver will likely take over for Brown on kickoff returns and may get a few touches on offense.

OK, maybe they aren't who we thought they were: Buffalo Bills

This week's road game versus the Bills is one many fans chalked up as a win before the season began. But these are not the same old Bills. Buffalo is one of just seven teams to start the season 2-0 and -- inspired by new ownership and playing in honor of the late Ralph Wilson -- is looking to end a 14-year playoff drought.

The Bills have explosive offensive weapons in C.J. Spiller and Sammy Watkins, as well as a dominant defensive front four. The Chargers, coming off a grueling with over the physical Seahawks, must play sharp, mistake-free football for 60 minutes to come away with the win.

The schedule takes a favorable turn after Week 3. Between Weeks 4 and 7, the Bolts play three of four games at home and don't leave the state of California. Their four opponents in that stretch -- the Jaguars, Jets, Raiders and Chiefs -- are a combined 1-7 right now.

A win over the Bills would give the Chargers a realistic shot at starting 5-2 or possibly even 6-1, which would set up a huge game in Week 8 against the Denver Broncos.



How will Mathews' injury affect the Chargers? Discuss it inside the message boards.



Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 18 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.


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