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NFL Thursday Night; Broncos at Chargers

Philip Rivers is a future Hall of Famer and still one of the NFL’s top quarterbacks. He’s also cursed. (Photo by Kyle Terada-USA TODAY)

Philip Rivers will likely retire from the NFL as one of the least appreciated, great quarterbacks of all time. His 13-year career has been defined by great individual numbers but undermined by team collapses and failures. In his ten years as San Diego’s starting quarterback, the Chargers have had eight winning seasons. They’ve finished with less than seven wins only once. Outside of LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates, Rivers has never had a fellow star to help carry the offense. Tomlinson left after the 2009 season and Gates started to fall off due to injuries around the same time. Still the Chargers remained competitive. Even after the franchise let Rivers’ favorite targets like Michael Turner, Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson leave town, Rivers continued, and continues to put up winning numbers. Over his last six seasons, Rivers has averaged 4,400 yards, 29 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a completion percentage above 66%. For reference, those numbers are better than Eli Manning’s, Ben Roethlisberger’s, and Carson Palmer’s over the same stretch. In Fact, only Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees can match those numbers and consistency.

Speaking of consistency, Rivers hasn’t missed a start since he took over the starting role in 2006. To no one’s surprise, he’s been great again in 2016. Unfortunately, the Chargers have not matched Rivers’ level of play. In fact, nothing encapsulates Rivers’ career in San Diego more than the Chargers start to the 2016 season. Let’s review their four losses together…

Week 1 – San Diego missed a field goal with 11 minutes to go in the 4th quarter that would have put the Chargers up 20. Instead, the Kansas City Chiefs scored 17 points on their next three possessions and then scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime. San Diego’s highest 4th quarter win probability; 99.4

Week 3 – After the Chargers again blew a 4th quarter lead, Rivers and the offense had possession with 1:17 to go and only needed a field goal for the win. They still had two timeouts. After he false-started on 2nd and 6, San Diego tight end Hunter Henry double-downed on his error and fumbled the game away on 2nd and 11. San Diego’s highest 4th quarter win probability; 80.6

Week 4 – With a 13 point lead AND the football, the Chargers needed to survive the final 6:50 of the 4th quarter for their 2nd win of the season. Instead, Melvin Gordon fumbled on 1st down. New Orleans would score and cut the Chargers’ lead to six. Again with the football and 4:50 to go, the unthinkable happened. Travis Benjamin fumbled on 1st down. New Orleans would go on to score and take the lead. San Diego’s highest 4th quarter win probability; 98.5.

Week 5 – While leading by five with less than five minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, Melvin Gordon again fumbled inside his own 35. The Raiders would score touchdowns on their next two possessions to take a 10 point lead. As usual, Rivers rallied San Diego back within three points and positioned the Chargers to tie the game with a 35 yard field goal at the Two-Minute-Warning of the 4th quarter. Unfortunately, San Diego’s holder fumbled the snap and the Chargers were again defeated. San Diego’s highest 4th quarter win probability; 58.1.

Dan LeBatard likes to joke that Philip Rivers lives in an eternal purgatory where he has the football in the final minutes of every game with a chance to tie or take the lead after his team has already blown a 4th quarter lead. It’s never been more true than in 2016. No team in the NFL – not the Patriots, not the Vikings, not the Broncos – has led more than the San Diego Chargers this season. The San Diego Chargers are 1-4. None of this is lost on Philip Rivers. After San Diego literally fumbled their chance at tying the Raiders last week, Rivers was caught on the sideline muttering to himself, “Bad news Bears, man.” It’s true. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -3.5

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