With the regular season kicking off one week from today, NFL.com released its 2016 AFC playoff predictions. Per usual, almost nobody is giving the San Diego Chargers a chance.
But one man by the name of Gregg Rosenthal thinks otherwise. Rosenthal, who is the Around The NFL editor, predicts the Chargers as one of the AFC’s wild-card teams. Here’s what he had to say:
“This is not a 4-12 roster. From Philip Rivers to a defense built with playmakers at every level, this team could compete for a title.”
This isn’t a 4-12 roster. They were badly banged up on both sides of the ball in 2015. It was evident when the team had 26 different offensive line combinations. They have made significant upgrades in the offseason, and the starters have played relatively well in limited snaps during the preseason, too. But hey, they did finish 4-12 last year, so what do you expect?
There’s a lot of talent in the AFC, so I can see why the Chargers are getting overlooked. Majority of analysts chose teams from the AFC East, AFC North and AFC West to make the playoffs (New England Patriots/New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers/Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs/Oakland Raiders/Denver Broncos). Then there’s the somewhat weaker AFC South, with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts battling it out for their respective title (but don’t sleep on two teams from this division like the Jags and Texans both sneaking in).
In regards to the AFC West title, the Chiefs led with 12 votes, while the Raiders, who haven’t won the division since 2002, finished with six votes. The defending Super Bowl Champion Broncos got two votes, which is more then a kick to the groin than the Chargers not getting any votes (considering they finished 4-12).
It’s going to be tough for the Chargers, but I am not counting them out. I believe they’re going to need at least 10 wins in order to make the playoffs. If they can stay healthy, run the ball, stop the run on defense and play at a high level on a consistent basis (I’m looking at you, John Pagano), then they have a really good chance to make it back to the postseason.
Before the start of last season, my friend who’s a Jets fan guaranteed his team would surprise people. Many laughed at that statement, but they ended up doing just that. After finishing 4-12 in 2014, the Jets finished with their best record (10-6) since 2010. Even though they missed the playoffs after suffering a crushing loss to the Buffalo Bills in the season finale, it was considered a successful season.
This Chargers team reminds me of that underrated Jets team. The offense is dynamic and features a ton of great pass-catchers. The running back corps is solid led by a potential breakout player and dominant third-down back. The front seven has a ton of playmakers for the first time in what seems like forever. And the secondary features a Pro Bowl corner with good depth (excluding the safety position).
And to top it all off, this team has quarterback Philip Rivers. This is a young, talented team that is underrated going into 2016. Let’s hope they can put on a show.