By Ben Eagle
January 08, 2014

philip-rivers-san-diego-chargers-sports-illustrated-cover (Joe Robbins/AP)

Don't write off the San Diego Chargers as Super Bowl contenders, writes Andy Benoit in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated.

"Few imagined that the Chargers, who on Dec. 1 were 5–7 and still had the Broncos and the Chiefs remaining on their schedule, would be among the NFL’s final eight," writes Benoit. "In fact, few had believed in the team when it opened camp with mostly the same roster that had stayed home the last three postseasons.

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"But the beauty of a spread system like [Mike] McCoy’s is that it can dilute weaknesses. Athleticism and experience are less important along the line when the QB is getting rid of the ball on a three-step drop, which is the norm, as wider formations make passing lanes and defensive schemes easier to identify before the snap."

Leading the Bolts' surge is Philip Rivers, who has experienced a renaissance under first-year coach McCoy.

"People snickered when Mike McCoy said last May that Philip Rivers could connect on 70 percent of his passes in the Chargers’ new spread offense," Benoit writes. "Turns out the first-year coach was prophetic -- almost. Rivers had an NFL-high 69.5 percent completion rate and 32 TDs (fourth in the NFL), earning his fifth Pro Bowl invitation and quieting speculation about his future in San Diego.”

The sixth-seeded Chargers face the No. 1-seeded Broncos in the divisional round Sunday, Jan. 12.

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