Dave Choate: Rivers is some kind of genius wizard, I'm convinced. How is he still so good at this stage of his career, with a supporting cast that seems to change by the year?
Richard Wade: Philip Rivers has never been an amazing athlete. He never had the cannon for an arm nor was he fleet of foot. His game is anticipation, the ability to move in the pocket, and throwing one of the most catchable balls in the NFL. None of those traits have faded as he has aged, so even though he's even slower than he once was and has a little less zip on the ball he's never been able to rely on those things anyway. Nobody is better equipped to handle an ever-changing supporting cast because Rivers makes everyone that he plays with better.
Dave Choate: Hunter Henry is coming on in a big way, and the Falcons have traditionally struggled to contain talented tight ends. How will San Diego deploy him against Atlanta, and will he lead the team in receiving Sunday?
Richard Wade: Henry is one of those rare rookie tight ends that came into the league already a capable blocker and receiver. He runs clean routes and has absurdly good hands. He's also in contention for the title of "best run blocker on the team" and that's including the offensive line. He'll be deployed in a number of different ways. He's well-equipped to line up as the tight end on either side of the formation, in the slot, or in the backfield. He's a difficult matchup for anyone on the defense and his presence on the field won't tip the offense's hand because he's just as effective as a weapon in the running or passing game.
Dave Choate: I'll cop to not knowing a lot about your defense, aside from that the fact that it has been impacted by injuries. Who are the standouts?
Richard Wade: Rookies Jatavis Brown and Joey Bosa are the two biggest standouts on the defense. Both have shown a knack for making plays since they've taken over starting roles. Brown is a bit undersized in theory, but he's a sure tackler with good instincts and great speed. He's most dangerous when John Pagano lets him rush the passer, but he's also effective in coverage and has shown the ability to make plays against the run as well. Other names that you'll actually recognize are Casey Hayward and Brandon Mebane. Both were signed as free agents this offseason and they have brought consistent, high-level play to the secondary and defensive line respectively.
Dave Choate: How has Joey Bosa looked thus far, and how will he impact the game Sunday? Does he move around to exploit matchups?
Richard Wade: Early returns suggest that Bosa may already be the best player on the defense. His use of his hands is incredibly advanced for a rookie. Nobody else on the team is as active or effective with their hands when trying to get off a block to make a play. He's lined up as a 3, 5, and 9-tech. He seems almost as comfortable standing up as he does with his hand in the dirt. He already commands double teams on almost every play and this is freeing up the rest of the defense to make plays. Thanks to his ability and relentlessness, though, he's still notching sacks despite being the focus of opposing offenses. If the Chargers are able to pull off an upset in Atlanta, I have to imagine Bosa will have been a big part of it.
Dave Choate: Who do you expect to win this game, and how do you see the rest of the season unfolding?
Richard Wade: The Falcons are the better team, they have the better coaching staff, and they're at home where they have a pretty impressive home field advantage. I fully expect the Chargers to go in and keep it close for three quarters before watching the Falcons pull away in the fourth quarter. As for the rest of the season, I originally picked them to go either 6-10 or 7-9. That was before Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Manti Te'o, and Jason Verrett were lost for the season, though, and I was starting to think even 6-10 may have been too optimistic. The emergence of Brown and Bosa have offset a lot of that, though, and I think 7-9 is back in play. Granted, with a great quarterback like Philip Rivers and those aforementioned rookie playmakers, I suppose there's still room for optimism in San Diego.