1. From just looking at the stats, it seems that Philip Rivers has had a resurgence in the first two games of the season. What do you see different about him this season?
Norv Turner is gone! I'm not usually one to hoist all the blame on the token scapegoat, but that is certainly the biggest difference in Rivers this season. Norv Turner had a nasty habit of calling plays like he had the 1995 Dallas Cowboys on the field in front of him, and Rivers ended up getting beat up quite a bit for it. Seven-step drops when your offensive line is among the worst in the league isn't really going to help your offense, and Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt seem to realize that.
Gone are the long-developing pass plays, replaced with quick passes that keep the chains moving and keep Rivers from feeling the heat on every play. Gone is Norv's "My way or the highway" approach, replaced by a Peyton Manning-style offense where the offense gets up to the line quickly and Rivers can check to another play (and often does). Gone is the power running game that wasn't working, replaced by a zone-blocking scheme and a dedication to the running game that Ryan Mathews appears to be benefiting from. Maybe most importantly is that the new offensive coaching staff seems more intent on building gameplans that take advantage of the opponent's biggest weakness, different from Norv's approach of forcing his will upon the defense regardless of their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Ryan Matthews has been a fantasy football disappointment for the past two seasons. Why hasn't he been able to live up to his potential?
A combination of reasons.
For one, Ryan has struggled to stay healthy. It's an issue he had in college as well. The new coaching staff is hoping they've figured that out by getting him thinner and more flexible, as opposed to "bulky" and covered in muscles.
Second, Mathews fumbles quite a bit. This isn't a "freak' thing, either. He carries the ball in one hand (not arm, HAND) and it swings away from his body often. This is a bigger deal in fantasy because he gets "benched" regularly after fumbling the ball, making him essentially useless in the second half of games several times per year.
Third, well....look at all the Norv stuff above. The power running game didn't work because the offensive line was terrible. Defenses could easily put 8 in the box and send them all because the offensive line couldn't hold them off long enough for Rivers to hit his wide receivers for big plays down the field. Even if Mathews could stay healthy and hold on to the ball, the deck was stacked against him by his Offensive Coordinator/Head Coach/offensive line.
3. What has the coverage of Manti Te'o been like and when will he be able to get on the field? How did he look in the preseason?
It was nuts for about three days before the national media realized that the Chargers don't screw around. Manti wasn't allowed to talk to the press for months after being drafted (after a short press conference that he did not take questions at), and he was trained by the team's public relations staff on how to talk his way out of questions and answer everything in cliches.
He practiced for the first time in six weeks on Wednesday. Chances of him being ready to play against the Titans on Sunday are slim, but they're there. The coaching staff hasn't hesitated to comment on the "rust" that he's acquired while trying to heal his "sore foot".
He played in a series and a half (9 plays) in the first game of the preseason before leaving the game with his mysterious foot injury. I'd hesitate to grade anyone in 9 snaps, so I'll give him an "incomplete".
4. Has Dwight Freeney been able to replace what the Chargers lost when Melvin Ingram went down?
Absolutely. 100%. Freeney has been an absolute animal, somehow generating pressure on every pass play without much of a pass rush on the other side. He looks like the Dwight Freeney of old.
Despite tearing his ACL in mini camp, Ingram is far enough in his recovery process that a midseason return to the field is not out of the question. Actually, at this point, it's almost expected. Ingram seemed to freak everyone out doing running and jumping drills on the side field during training camp in August.
5. Write the headline in Monday's Tennessean.
"Is it time for Fitzpatrick?"
Feel free to head over to Bolts from the Blue and weigh in on their questions, my answers, and especially their comments.