Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has collected all of the hype out of the AFC West and is the probable MVP front runner through six weeks. But riding a three game winning streak are the Chargers, and Rivers is playing the best football we’ve seen from him in a long time. In fact, I’d go as far as saying he should be an MVP candidate.
With a better offensive line and a quality group of receivers, it’s not hard to see why Rivers is playing at such a high level. For more on him, let’s dive into his film in this week’s Enemy Profile.
The Chargers started 0-4 in 2017 largely because of special teams and Rivers’ lacking arm strength. Apparently he found some deer antler spray afterwards, because he finished the season a lot better than he started it, pushing the Chargers to a 9-7 record.
This season, Rivers is starting off hot, and not even the Chargers’ ability to screw games up can stop them from starting off 4-2. With that said, the receivers constantly let Rivers down in week 1 against the Chiefs, dropping two touchdowns.
The Chargers were down 38-28 late in the 4th quarter, but a touchdown would’ve gotten them back in the game. Rivers absolutely rifles this one to former Titans killer Travis Benjamin, who lets the ball go through his hands. The game all but ended here, but it was frustrating to see a great performance from Rivers go completely wasted.
It looked like we’d see the same old Chargers from years prior, then they won four of their next five games and have a spot in the playoffs if the season ended today. With the receivers catching more consistently, we’re beginning to see the offense’s potential become fully realized.
It all starts with the quality traits of Rivers.
I mentioned how the offensive line play has improved this season, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its faults. Rivers is a 15-year veteran though, so at this point he’s as comfortable against pressure as any of his peers.
The left tackle Russell Okung initially helps double block defensive tackle Kyle Williams, for some reason, and that gives defensive end Jerry Hughes an easy lane to the quarterback. Rivers is given little time to react to the pressure from the blind side, but he remains cool and collect with what little seconds he has.
The touchdown throw he makes to Mike Williams looks way easier than it actually is. The safety Jordan Power is staring him down as he’s looking to Williams in the end zone, and he also has to deal with Vontae Davis guarding Williams.
Rivers’ insanely quick release is what makes this throw against blind side pressure look so easy. A quarterback like Blake Bortles with his long developing motion would not be able to make this throw. Rivers gets this one off in the blink of an eye and that puts him one step ahead of both Jerry Hughes and the secondary.
You could say this is a throw that pushed Vontae Davis to retiring.
Also, word of advice for Dean Pees; Don’t bother blitzing Philip, as he’s one of the best quarterbacks against the blitz. Typically, blitzing a quarterback that thrives at processing the field instantly does not work, and the Bills paid dearly by sending a two-man blitz, one up the A-gap, and the other up the B-gap.
Rivers recognizes this immediately under center, and as he drops back, quickly gets the ball out of his hands and into the tight end Virgil Green’s. The result is a 25-yard gain that ultimately helped set up Mike Williams’ first career touchdown reception.
Rivers’ accuracy has generally been brilliant throughout his career, but it’s his anticipation before the release that makes his passing ability special.
Take this throw to Tyrell Williams from last week against the Browns for example. Off play action deep in his own red zone, Rivers has to lead Williams to a spot using his precision over Joe Schobert (who’s been a phenomenal linebacker this season) and corner E.J. Gaines. Thus, the accuracy on this pass is crazy. Los Angeles would end up scoring a touchdown on the very next play, also to Williams, with the exact same play call.
Philip Rivers is an MVP candidate without hesitation. His accuracy, play against pressure, quick decision making, and consistency have been nothing short of phenomenal through the team’s first six games. We’d have to go back to 2014 to find him starting off this insanely well, and though he’s playing second fiddle to Mahomes, he’s been a top five quarterback, to me.
One win away from a four-game winning streak and a chance to go to 5-2 entering their bye week, Rivers and the Chargers have a lot to play for going against a free falling Titans team that desperately needs a win to stay on top of the AFC South. Something’s gotta give.