The San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins find themselves in similar positions. Both teams started the season strong, but now find themselves couched in third place in their respective divisions. A win is vital for both team's hopes at a Wild Card spot.
Meet the Miami Dolphins
Few teams have undergone a more tumultuous season than the Miami Dolphins. A hot start made them look like an organization poised to challenge the league's elite, but a locker room controversy and five losses later, it's unclear what this team is.
Miami recorded a signature win in the second game of the season as Ryan Tannehill led the team to a win over the Indianapolis Colts. Two months later, the Dolphins lost to the previously winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, largely because of a lack of pass protection.
Locker room issues compounded an already weak offensive line, with the team's bullying scandal causing it to lose right tackle Jonathan Martin and guard Richie Incognito. As a result, Tannehill has been sacked a total of 11 times in the last three weeks, unable to find his deep routes.
Meet the San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers might only be 4-5 in 2013, but Philip Rivers is enjoying life with head coach Mike McCoy. Initially it appeared that Rivers would have a bad season, especially following the loss of top receiver Malcom Floyd. This was a team struggling to find weapons for its quarterback after Vincent Jackson left in free agency, but San Diego struck it big with the selection of Keenan Allen in April's draft.
Allen is on pace for a 900-yard season after failing to start the first few games of the year, and he has been paired with veteran Eddie Royal -- an end zone threat who has been hauling in passes. Tight end Antonio Gates has also returned to form, rounding out a dangerous offense.
Finding quality pass rushers has been this team's problem. There are a lot of capable players who are able to generate pressure, but the Chargers lack a signature threat offenses need to key on. This likely would have been second-year linebacker Melvin Ingram, but losing him to injury gave San Diego a lack of defensive depth.
Local Takes: Miami Dolphins
Sean Donovan from The Phinsider addressed the lack of production from rookie Dion Jordan.
At one point the excuse was that he was a developing rookie. After a couple of solid outings in limited work, it became a bad joke. Now, Jordan's lack of snaps is is a full-blown controversy. The Dolphins coaches refusal to increase Jordan's workload is a mystery to almost all observers, and there isn't any indication that it'll change this season.
Local Takes: San Diego Chargers
Stopping the Dolphins was the primary concern of Kyle Posey at Bolts From the Blue.
The goal should be to make the Dolphins one dimensional. Take away the run, and make these receivers get open consistently. The Chargers should play a lot of Cover 1, where the corners can just play, instead of think. Let them know that they have help over the top and in the middle (where there would be a robber helping), so they can sit on routes and protect the sideline.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Fan Guide to non-Miami Dolphins Teams to Root for (Week 11) - never too early to root for other teams to lose http://t.co/WEeW5dtl4d— Kevin Nogle (@thephinsider) November 14, 2013
If the Chargers lose to the Dolphins on Sunday, I'll eagerly await another "Take A Chill Pill" post.— Bolts From The Blue (@BFTB_Chargers) November 14, 2013
Ryan Van Bibber is predicting a Chargers win.
If Peyton Manning wasn't playing so darn good this year, we'd be hearing a lot more about Philip Rivers ... by more, I mean not much at all. He is averaging 328 passing yards on the road this season. His completion percentage of 71.6 puts him on pace for a career high in that category.
Problems in Miami are well documented. And I suspect the dysfunction there, not to mention an offensive line that's even worse than it was, is just too much to overcome this week.
The pick: Chargers
Sunday's game is tight, with the largest margin being San Diego as 1.5-point favorites, according to OddsShark.