The Chargers weren't as good under Norv Turner in 2007 as they were under Marty Schottenheimer in 2006. But you know what they say: Sometimes it's better to be lucky ...
Schottenheimer did everything right during the 2006 regular season. Went 14-2. Earned the AFC's top seed. Got a week off to rest.
And yet his luck with the playoff draw was so incredibly bad, it's partly to blame for why he was fired and out of work in 2007.
Instead of easing into the playoffs with the kind of opening tuneup game one would expect for a No. 1 seed, Schottenheimer drew an NFL dynasty, not to mention the best No. 4 seed the league has ever seen, or ever will. The Chargers nearly won, too. But they stumbled in that divisional game, losing 24-21 to the Patriots, dropping Schottenheimer to 5-13 in the postseason and giving his boss, A.J. Smith, the ammo he needed to end their contentious relationship.
The Chargers went 11-5 and won the AFC West again this season. Smith was rewarded this week with a five-year contract extension worth about $11 million.
Before the post-contract-signing smiles and backslaps had concluded, Tennessee, the Chargers' wild-card opponent today, lost receiver Roydell Williams, who had tied for the team lead in receptions, and tight end Bo Scaife, the team's third-leading pass catcher, to injuries.
And, oh yeah, starting quarterback Vince Young might not play. And even if he does, it'll be with a thigh injury, which isn't good for a run-first QB who isn't much of a passer.
As the No. 3 seed, San Diego (11-5) doesn't get the week off to rest. But if you're the Chargers, would you rather take your six-game winning streak and play the Titans today as the No. 3 seed, or rest up as the No. 1 seed and risk playing the fifth-seeded and very dangerous Jaguars next week?
A victory today will make the Chargers 1-2 in the postseason with Smith as the team's executive vice president and general manager. He'll get all the kudos, and the favorable playoff draw will postpone a date with New England for at least another week.
A San Diego victory sets up a divisional-round game against the Colts in Indianapolis. While the Colts are no bargain either, San Diego not only beat them during the regular season (23-21), but the Chargers also grabbed six of Peyton Manning's 14 interceptions in that one game.
I asked Vikings linebacker and former Charger Ben Leber if he felt a different vibe coming from his former mates this season. I also asked him if he thought the Chargers would be the surprise team of the playoffs this season.
"No, I really don't," he said. "They're really inconsistent on offense. It seems like they need to get [tight end] Antonio Gates more involved. They just aren't clicking all together. Defensively, I think they'll be OK. But offensively, they just don't seem like they're using their weapons the right way."
A Titans victory today would be the biggest upset of wild-card weekend. It also would create an interesting irony in San Diego.
Marty gets canned after losing to Tom Brady and New England. Yet Smith would have been handed 11 million bucks on the eve of losing to Young and/or Kerry Collins and Tennessee.Stat of the Year
If you're a Vikings fan, you'll love this statistic: For the 12th consecutive year, the 12-team playoff field had at least five participants who did not make the playoffs the year before.
Six of this season's playoff teams -- the Packers, Jaguars, Steelers, Buccaneers, Titans and Redskins -- did not make the playoffs last season.
"I think we're right there, real close to being a playoff team," Vikings nose tackle Pat Williams said. "We come back, get everybody on the same page, we'll be OK. We'll be a playoff team next year."Take the Falcons job
Upon further review, maybe the Falcons head coaching job isn't so bad after all.
The Falcons (4-12) finished last in the NFC South. And, believe it or not, the previous five teams to finish last in the NFC South went on to win the division the following year.
In 2007, Tampa Bay went 9-7 after going 4-12; in 2006, New Orleans was 10-6 after going 3-13; in 2005, Tampa Bay was 11-5 after going 5-11; in 2004, Atlanta was 11-5 after going 5-11; and in 2002, Carolina was 11-5 after going 7-9.
Mark Craig • email@example.com