1. The Chargers are in the thick of the playoff hunt. How important is this game to their playoff chances?
Not very, actually. They stand a very good chance of getting in with a 10-6 record because of their win against the Ravens, and the 49ers and Chiefs games seem much more winnable. That being said, a win against the Broncos would make it much easier to get in to the playoffs.
2. How would you grade the Chargers' performances this year at home vs. on the road?
They've been crap on the road (3-3) and mostly solid at home (5-2). The team's worst losses have come in Denver, in Miami, and in Phoenix. While they lost to the Patriots last week, and the offense couldn't get going, they went toe-to-toe and had a lead at halftime against one of the AFC's best teams.
Mike McCoy has a strong focus on winning home games, and winning division games. That's the recipe for long-term success and getting into the playoffs. He'll have the team ready for Denver on Sunday.
3. Philip Rivers was in the MVP conversation a month or so ago, but after a stretch of losses those talks have quieted. Can he get back into that race? Does he deserve to remain in it?
No and no. His body of work, over the entire course of the season, has not been good enough. I could lay two of the team's five losses directly at his feet.
Is he the "most valuable player" in that the team would be nothing without him? Possibly, but he hasn't been anywhere near the best QBs in the league over the last two months, and it's hard to argue that he's more valuable than Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning.
Simply put, Rivers had a great first month of the season. A new offensive coordinator and a weak schedule lead him to put up some truly great numbers. Then, his running game disappeared and the offensive line got worse and Rivers couldn't keep up that level of performance. It's not his fault, and it's sad, but he won't be getting that MVP trophy this season.
4. Which player or players have surprised you (in a good way) as the year has gone on?
Malcom Floyd having his best season ever has been a delightful surprise. He should be a strong candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.
Antonio Gates, playing like he's ten years younger, has been a treat to watch.
However, my favorite player this season has been Brandon Flowers. It has been quite some time since the Chargers have had a true "shutdown cornerback", and Flowers has been exactly that. I can't think of many DBs that have had better seasons than him, and the fan base will freak out if he's not back with the team next year.
5. What are your expectations and predictions for Week 15 and down the stretch?
I think the Chargers will lose a close one to the Broncos, because that's sort of been their M.O. this year (losing close to good teams, winning close against bad teams). However, I think they've got enough to beat the 49ers in San Francisco and the Chiefs in Kansas City, and I think they'll sneak into the playoffs as the 6th seed with a 10-6 record. What happens beyond that is anyone's guess.
Thanks again to John for taking the time!