This shouldn’t even be a discussion, but one important factor for either team has made it one.
The Chargers come into this game beat up, minus a pair of starting offensive linemen (only the two most important, the LT and the C) , and with key parts such as QB Philip Rivers, TE Antonio Gates and OLB Shawne Merriman at less than full strength.
And the Panthers always play their best in this precise environment —on the road as a big underdog.
Even without Merriman and Gates, the Chargers would have most of the tangible edges in terms of talent.
But when the Panthers get in this situation, tangible seems to matter less and less.
There’s something about this team, a quiet, workmanlike quality that management clearly digs. The vibe is good, and it may be enough to overcome the fact that San Diego’s simply a better team.
I’m not sure it’s enough, but I won’t be completely stunned if they fly home winners again. And I'd definitely feel good thinking a 9.5-point spread is too big.
Prediction: Chargers 20, Panthers 16