The Chargers are heavily favored in NFL lines to win the AFC West this season but they have been missing three key players who are holding out.
NFL odds will likely favor San Diego in most of the games this season. Getting Merriman back definitely helps the Chargers. He is expected to sign his $3.2 million dollar tender and report to camp. The Chargers are still without wide receiver Vincent Jackson and offensive tackle Marcus McNeil as they are both holding out but at least they will have Merriman.
The Chargers are hoping that Merriman can get back to his Pro Bowl form. He had 39.5 sacks from 2005 through 2007 but last year he had just four sacks after missing almost all of the 2008 season due to injury. The Chargers had some issues on defense last season and they are hoping to be improved in 2010. They are really counting on rookie Cam Thomas to replace nose tackle Jamal Williams in the middle. The Chargers really need Merriman to lead the linebackers as Shaun Phillips does not look to be up to leading the group. The secondary also has question marks as Antonio Cromartie is now in New York with the Jets. The Chargers believe that Antoine Cason can do the job but that remains to be seen.
The Chargers also have concerns on offense. They still have Philip Rivers at quarterback and Antonio Gates at tight end but they are without Vincent Jackson to start the season and they have an unproven running game with Darren Sproles and rookie Ryan Mathews. The Chargers will still score points but they do not look as strong as they did a year ago although they are still one of the main favorites in Super Bowl odds.
The AFC West is getting better although most people do not believe the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders or Denver Broncos are good enough to win the title this year. The Chargers could take a step back in 2010 though and that might make things very interesting in NFL lines this season.