Welcome to the 15th ever edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race in the Perspective of Chase’, an almost daily article on your favorite NFL team. The Chargers are a team that is in a completely different boat than any other team in the NFL. Because their Super Bowl contenders, but haven’t even proven to make the playoffs or play consistently down the stretch. But now with major additions on the defensive side of the ball, can Justin Herbert and the Chargers finally get over the hump for not only a playoff berth, but a deep playoff run? Lets, get into this!
Real quick before we do I would like to let you know we are doing something very similar to this on the Cool Sports Newsletter for the NBA if you want to check that out and also on there, we are doing rankings for different NFL positions before the season starts.
The Chargers had the 6th overall pick in 2020 and made a surprising pick, selecting Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert. This meant they were moving on from Philip Rivers’ 20 interception season in 2019, after spending 16 years with the organization. They were building a new core. In 2020, Herbert had a lot of success. He had a 31-10 touchdown to interceptions ratio, which rewarded him the offensive rookie of the year award. However, he only went 6-9 as a starter and the team finished 7-9, way out of the playoffs in a very competitive AFC. But the future was bright in Los Angeles for the Chargers.
In 2021, the Chargers were in and out of a playoff position. Eventually though, they were 8-5, just needing to go 2-3 to make the playoffs. But they couldn’t even do that! The team collapsed, losing a game to Houston, and missing the playoffs again at 9-8. Hebert thrived. He was the Pro Bowl starter while throwing 38 touchdowns and will probably be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for a very long time if injuries don’t hurt him. Austin Ekeler was also amazing. He had 911 yards rushing, but a total of 1,558 yards from scrimmage, and the most rushing/receiving touchdowns in the NFL. Keenan Allen made his 5th straight Pro Bowl with over 1,100 receiving yards and Mike Williams had more receiving yards than him, yet was snubbed of the Pro Bowl. The Chargers have two, top 15 receivers in the NFL on their team.
Sara Blakely once said on Shark Tank, “As soon as you can afford to hire your weaknesses”. That is exactly what the Chargers did this offseason. Guess what their weakness was? Defense! They allowed the 3rd most points per game in the NFL this year. The teams around them in this category were the Jets, Lions, Jaguars, Falcons and Texans. The Chargers offense carried them to be much better than those teams! So they knew the defense needed an upgrade. They had the talent. Joey Bosa. Derwin James. But they needed more talent. So they decided to trade for Khalil Mack, giving up a 2022 2nd round pick (ended up being Jaquan Brisker) and 2023 6th round pick. Mack, while not making the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2015 in 2021, it was mainly due to the fact that he played 7 games. If he played a full 17 games, he would have had 14.5 sacks! What a steal!
They also improved their secondary significantly by signing Patriots cornerback JC Jackson. Jackson had an unbelievable season in 2021. He led the NFL in PD (Passes defended by a defensive player) with 23 and had 8 interceptions. He also made his 1st Pro Bowl game. This improvement also makes their secondary one of the best in the league, as they weren’t terrible at defending the pass last year. They also signed Bryce Callahan and Kyle Van Noy to improve the D. And just like that, the Chargers have one of the best defenses in the league! They hired their weaknesses!
On offense they even got better! At #17 overall, they selected offensive guard Zion Johnson. One of Johnson’s most valuable attributes is that he’s fast and has a lot of strength, which gives him the potential to be a great offensive lineman for a very long time as long as he stays healthy. They also stole Gerald Everett from Seattle, as they decided not to resign Jared Cook, who may never get a job again as he sits in free agency!
So where does this put them in a very competitive AFC? Most people say they are going to win their division over Kansas City. Personally, I think they’re crazy! I think the Chiefs are a better team with better experience and better chemistry. But the Chargers are still great, and will hold a playoff spot. The question is how far will they make it? They will probably have to go against and Tennessee type team in the Wild Card round, before probably going against a Buffalo like team.
The Chargers season is all going to come down to what it came down to last season: the games down the stretch. The Chargers have a not easy but not hard schedule, basically splitting between winning and losing teams. But it is going to come down to how they play after their bye week in Week 8. From Week 9-18, they play Atlanta (easy) but then San Francisco, Kansas City, Arizona, Las Vegas, Miami, Tennessee, Indianapolis, the other team down in Hollywood (aka the Super Bowl champs) and Denver! How can young team who’s choked that time of year win then? Because they’re better! The Chargers will go 6-4 in that stretch, not collapse, and become the 5th seed. The sky is the limit for a team that has all of the talent in the world, but is a couple tweaks away from making a deep playoff run.
Wiz Talk with Chase
Cool Sports Network