Chargers Are Contenders?

San Diego entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, but that seems almost laughable after losing their last two games. The Chargers aren't getting much impact from their impact players and their defense doesn't strike fear in anyone.

Down at the crossroads, that's where the San Diego Chargers find themselves.

It's a crossroad game on Sunday for the Chargers, as they welcome the world champion Green Bay Packers.

Just maybe a visit from the great Green Bay squad is the best tonic for the Chargers, a team that has lost two straight, including Monday's heartbreaker against the Chiefs.

The Chargers have little choice but to finish licking their wounds from their latest baffling loss and go compete. With it being the Packers — the undefeated Packers — it's clear the Chargers will have to focus and prepare in earnest if hoping to end their skid.

It's imperative the Chargers look ahead because if they are stuck in Kansas City with their woe-is-me routine, the Packers will blow them out of Qualcomm Stadium.

And really, the Packers could do just that even if they have the Chargers' undivided attention. That's how good the Packers are and how deep of you-know-what the Chargers are in.

The whispers of a lost season are starting for a team that at one time had Super Bowl aspirations.

Those thoughts, though, now seem laughable. Although the Chargers are in a three-way tie for the AFC West lead, they have let two consecutive road games slip away and now enter the teeth of the schedule.

That's the only chops seen around Chargers Park, because smiles are few and far between around the team's facility.

But a win Sunday solidifies the Chargers' chances of being relevant in the second half. It would allow them to keep pace, in case the Raiders beat the Broncos and the Chiefs dispose of the Dolphins.

But a loss Sunday crystallizes all what is wrong with the Chargers: mainly, this is a team not as talented as most think, and after injuries, its glaring lack of depth is showing at too many positions.

Where that talent was rock-solid was at quarterback, and how's that working out for you, Chargers? Not well at all as Philip Rivers' struggles — his muffed snap exchange leading to Monday's loss will go down in NFL lore — are well chronicled.

Where that talent was rock-solid was at tight end with Antonio Gates, but he is a shadow of himself with his balky foot injury.

Wide receiver Vincent Jackson is another play-maker, but for some reason, he no longer gets open on a consistent basis. He battled a hamstring issue earlier, but it's possible the lack of the threat that is the Chargers' running game has allowed teams to play deeper, taking away Jackson's bread-and-butter.

On defense, there's not a single player either striking fear into opposing ball-carriers or being a difference-maker.

Where is the talent? Where is the depth? Where is the Chargers team that was supposed to be among the elite, but has fallen to the ranks of flat-dead average?

Maybe it's the work of Norv Turner — the popular target.

Maybe it's the work of A.J. Smith — the general manager who can't hit on first-round picks after making his reputation on doing just that.

The Chargers don't play the free-agent game, so their roster is built almost exclusively through the draft. But recent drafts, especially in the first round, have produced clunkers which are catching up with the Chargers: a benched cornerback in Antoine Cason; a two-year, IR-member in linebacker Larry English; a waived wide receiver in Buster Davis.

Last year Smith spent a ransom to move up and draft running back Ryan Mathews. While he's seventh in combined yardage, he can't stay on the field. In three straight games, he's been unable to finish with three different injuries.

Mathews' reputation at Fresno State was having trouble shaking nagging injuries. If it was happening in the Western Athletic Conference, that it is happening in the National Football League shouldn't be a surprise.

Want a real shocker? The Chargers spit out all this adversity and rebound with an upset of the undefeated Packers.

But if the Chargers continue their shoddy play and lose their third straight, that crossroad intersection they find themselves at Sunday could have their GPS pointing south for what could be a long, bumpy ride to the finish line.

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