Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson
Power Rankings: Preseason: 5. This week: 12.
Where they stand: The 5-3 Chargers are in decent shape to make a run at the playoffs. They may not be in great shape for a top seed, which was expected, but the Chargers are looking solid, especially after three straight wins. The Chargers look better than they did at the midseason point the past couple of seasons. They are within range of surprise AFC West leader Denver. The Chargers ended the first half with a huge, last-second win at the New York Giants. It was San Diego’s first win this season against a team with a winning record.
Disappointments: It has to be the running game. The Chargers have been at the bottom of the league in rushing all season. Halfway through the season, San Diego is ranked dead last in the NFL, averaging 69.6 yards per game. LaDainian Tomlinson, 30, has not been productive. He has only 289 yards rushing. The blocking hasn’t been great, but he has lost a step. The Chargers' offense is all the passing game, led by quarterback Philip Rivers. Unless the running game gets going, the pressure is going to be on Rivers to continue to carry the offense.
Surprises: Malcolm Floyd has emerged as the No. 2 receiver opposite Vincent Jackson, who has developed into a top-flight receiver this season. Floyd’s emergence allowed the Chargers to cut struggling veteran Chris Chambers, who was claimed by Kansas City. Defensively, safety Steve Gregory has become a solid nickelback and has been effective as a blitzer.
Outlook: The Chargers should stay in the playoff hunt in the second half. They have four games remaining against teams with a winning record in the first half. If the Chargers can run the ball better, be more productive in the red zone on offense and continue their recent surge on defense, they should at least be a wild-card contender. The Chargers are not an elite team heading into the second half, but they are a dangerous team that will have to be reckoned with late in the season.