Chargers Control Fate as Padres Sit Back and Wait

    Let’s start with the Bolts, because it’s football season
    and, although no one expected it to be this close, the Chargers are in a battle
    to hold onto the AFC West lead. With a 24-10 win in Kansas City over their
    division rivals, the Chargers have a two-game cushion between them and the
    Broncos and a three-game lead over the Chiefs and Raiders. With four games left
    to play, everyone in the AFC West is a contender and despite a good performance
    in their latest Sunday showdown, if we have learned to hate anything about this
    year’s Chargers, it’s their flare for inconsistent performances.

    As I said in a recent column about the Chargers and their
    lucky win over the Colts, this team needs Phillip Rivers and LaDainian
    Tomlinson to work together to see consistent success. While the win over the
    Chiefs wasn’t ideal for Rivers — he was just 10-of-21 for 157 yards with a
    touchdown pass and a pick — Tomlinson ran wild for 177 yards on 23 carries and
    reached the end zone twice in the second half on dashes of over 25 yards.

    Though Rivers wasn’t impressive, to his credit he only threw
    one pick and was able to spread the ball around to six different receivers. The
    shocking thing is that his usual target, All-Pro tight end Antonio Gates, had
    only one catch, on which he lost a yard.

    Gates will never be limited to just one catch in successive
    weeks. Norv Turner should focus on him early and often, unless he has no head
    coaching skills — which is indeed a possibility.

    At least the Chargers’ destiny is in their own hands, which
    is more than many good football teams can say, but their remaining schedule
    leaves many possibilities open.

    Next week, the Lions’ high-powered passing attack will test
    the recently recuperated Quentin Jammer and rest of the Charger secondary. The
    Bolts will then host the Broncos on Monday night in Week 16 in a possible
    division-deciding contest before making a journey to the Black Hole in Oakland
    to battle the Raiders to close out the regular season.

    Luckily for LT and the Chargers’ hopes, all three upcoming
    teams have shoddy run defenses; and with Tomlinson finally looking like he was
    during his MVP and record-setting season last year, he could carry the team
    into the playoffs, where anything can happen.

    On the baseball side of San Diego, the Padres made their
    first splash into free agency, signing veteran southpaw Randy Wolf to a
    one-year deal potentially worth $9 million including performance-based bonuses.

    The Padres inked the deal with Wolf after seeing big free
    agents go elsewhere to more lucrative markets — A-Rod went sniffling back to
    the Big Buck Bronx Bombers and Torii Hunter went West to the Los Angeles team
    that doesn’t really play in L.A. The Angels gave Hunter around $80 million to
    spend five years patrolling center field, much more than the Padres could offer
    to replace the departing — and now suspended — Mike Cameron in center field.

    Signing Wolf finalizes a rotation that should again be one
    of the best in the majors, along with Jake Peavy, who is reportedly set to
    agree to a three-year extension, Chris Young, Greg Maddux and either Clay
    Hensley or last-year’s impressive rookie Justin Germano. A stellar pitching
    staff won’t lead to many wins if the Padres don’t add to their thin lineup.

    Beyond Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Khalil Greene
    in the infield and Brian Giles in rightfield, the rest of the Padres’ depth
    chart is a huge question mark.

    The Padres aren’t in the running to pull off a trade for
    either Miguel — Cabrera or Tejada — or any other recognizable names being
    tossed around with baseball’s Winter Meetings starting today.

    With Hunter heading to the Halos, if Cameron does decide to
    sign elsewhere, the Padres would be wise to target Andruw Jones, someone who
    has the glove to patrol the spacious outfield of PETCO Park and the powerful
    bat that can shoot balls off the face of the Western Metal Supply Co. building
    in left field.

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