The Los Angeles Chargers are one of the biggest question marks in the NFL, and they have been for a few years now. They clearly have the talent and sometimes they look as if they are on the verge of putting it all together. Then, injuries happen. Bad play calling and execution peep their ugly heads. Straight up bad luck even makes an appearance.
The 2016 Chargers season was a microcosm of this franchise since Philip Rivers has taken the helm. Sure, they’ve had some dominant stretches and some not-so-dominant, but altogether, they haven’t been able to get it all together. Is this the year the injury bug leaves and consistency comes? I think it could be. Let’s take a look at how this season could go if all the dominoes fall perfectly for the newly-minted Los Angeles Chargers.
Week 1 @ Broncos
The Chargers open the season under the bright lights on Monday Night at Mile High. I imagine the intensity will be similar to last year’s Thursday Night when the Color Rush-fueled Bolts finally gave it to the Broncos with an explosive defensive performance and well-executed offense. Both head coaches will be looking to start their careers off with a win. I side with the coach with Gus Bradley, Ken Whisenhunt and Rivers. Win, 24-13 (1-0)
Week 2 vs Dolphins
The first regular season game at the StubHub Center in front of a packed crowd. The Dolphins are threatening, but no more so than they were last year. Plus, I think playing in this stadium will give the visitors more trouble than you’d think. The Chargers, fueled by the 30,000 fans cheering them on, get the three-year StubHub stay started off right. Win, 31-17 (2-0)
Week 3 vs Chiefs
Dontari Poe is gone, the Chargers added a lot of beef up front, and Melvin Gordon is ready to get his 1,000-yard season. Plus, we know what Keenan Allen can do to Marcus Peters. The Chiefs still have a year or two with this core and will be a tough team to beat. Considering the Chargers added more talent that will contribute immediately and they usually play close with the Chiefs, I give Los Angeles the victory. Win, 27-21 (3-0)
Week 4 vs Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles may have had the best offseason in the NFL, but they will still be going through some growing pains and have a few holes, especially on defense. This Chargers wide receiver corps will exploit the defensive backfield of Philly and Rivers will have his biggest game of the season and finally look comfortable in Los Angeles. Win, 38-20 (4-0)
Week 5 @ Giants
Two of the three big names of the 2004 draft class face off, possibly for the last time: Rivers vs. Manning (Eli) doesn’t have the history as that of Brady/Manning or quite a few other rivalries do on the field, but they will always be compared considering what went down on draft day in 2004. The Giants are for real, especially on defense. But can Eli stay upright with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram coming after him? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Win, 24-21 (5-0)
Week 6 @ Raiders
Derek Carr and Co. will be back in full swing, this time with the added power of Marshawn Lynch. They will be dangerous and quite the test for Bradley’s defense. I think they can keep them in check enough, or at least more than the Raiders defense, which has a lot of talent, but some still to prove. Gordon is vital to opening up Rivers’ game. They keep it rolling Win, 28-27 (6-0)
Week 7 vs Broncos
I think the Broncos are the worst team in the AFC West, which is a near compliment. Their offense, especially at QB is a big question mark. If the Chargers are 6-0 at this point like an optimist would think, I don’t think this offense can do enough, even if the defense is still very talented, although their unbelievable pass defense will finally show some cracks. Win, 31-16 (7-0)
Week 8 @ Patriots
This is quite possibly the most talented New England Patriots team of this dynasty. The Chargers hung with the Pats a few years back when both teams were both less talented until New England pulled away late. Anthony Lynn will have his kickstart Bolts ready to deal a blow to this team, who is most likely undefeated at this point. As optimistic as I am, I don’t think they can overcome Tom Brady and his unbelievable amount of weapons. Loss, 34-21 (7-1)
Week 9 – BYE
At this point in the season, the Chargers are in the driver’s seat for an AFC West crown and potentially a first-round bye. Everyone is still healthy and clicking. Rivers has lessened his turnovers, Gordon looks like a top NFL back, Allen is back to full health and super-stardom and Antonio Gates looks like age affects him as much as it does Brady. Bosa is putting himself on the list with J.J. Watt, Von Miller and Khalil Mack. Jason Verrett and Casey Hayward are as dynamic a duo as anyone and Jatavis Brown shows that he is the gold standard for the new breed of linebackers.
Week 10 @ Jaguars
A hangover of their first loss of the season? Not with a bye week and Lynn making sure this team doesn’t overlook a (seemingly every year) much-improved Jaguars team. I think both defenses will show up big time, so it comes down to Rivers vs. Bortles. Win, 23-13 (8-1)
Week 11 vs Bills
No joke, I think the Bills will be better than advertised, especially due to an early favorable schedule. Unfortunately for the fans of Buffalo, Brown will play spy and Tyrod Taylor’s mobility will be negated. Gordon will show why some people touted him as a future Hall-of-Famer. Win, 34-17 (9-1)
Week 12 @ Cowboys (Thanksgiving)
This will be one of the best games of the season, optimistic or not. These teams are very similar. Ezekiel Elliott vs. Gordon. Allen vs. Dez Bryant. Jason Witten vs. Gates. Rivers and Prescott are both talented signal-callers, but Dak may play it too safe against an aggressive Bradley defense. Rivers may play it too aggressive against an unproven defense. How am I supposed to know? Hunter Henry scores the game-winning TD. Win, 35-31 (10-1)
Week 13 vs Browns
The Browns are a lot better than advertised. The Chargers are coming off a huge Thanksgiving win and are due for a letdown. But they still don’t have a QB. Win, 27-17 (11-1)
Week 14 vs Redskins
Kirk Cousins was rated higher than Rivers in the 2017 NFL Top 100 AND Casey Hayward was very disappointed in his low rating. Let’s just say that won’t fly with him, but it will most definitely fly for Rivers against this Washington secondary. Win, 38-14 (12-1)
Week 15 @ Chiefs
The Chiefs will not be far behind the Chargers at this point and will still be fighting to win the division. They have won quite a few games in a row against the Chargers (not counting Week 3 when I said Chargers would win). Chiefs keep the division race close. Loss, 30-21 (12-2)
Week 16 @ Jets
The second trip to New York shows that, even when the Chargers just lost a very important divisional game and have another the next week, the Jets’ roster is so depleted of talent, they can’t pull off the stunner. Win, 21-20 (13-2)
Week 17 vs Raiders
As nice as 14-2 sounds, it borders on insanity (I guess 13-3 isn’t the sanest). The Raiders will play better away from the Black Hole that has turned on them due to the impending permanent trip to Vegas. They play as rough, dirty, and reckless that would make their fans proud. They also punch their ticket to the playoffs and put the AFC West up for the Chiefs. Loss, 34-28 (13-3)
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Eventually, Chiefs lose to the 9-7 Broncos to end up 12-4. Raiders make the playoffs at 10-6 (they won’t be as good in the regular season, with all eyes on making a playoff run). The Chargers finish the season at 13-3 and win the AFC West in their first season back in the City of Angels. Rivers solidifies himself as a Top-7 QB. Gordon and Allen welcome the ‘superstar’ label. The offensive line overhaul border lines genius. Bradley’s system lines perfectly to the Chargers’ personnel. Bosa is a DOPY candidate. As for the playoffs, I’ll leave that up to you. I’m thinking Super Bowl Champions, but Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers may have something to say about that.
Sports are competition and game at their heart. But stories and narratives have always been written and always will be. Look around: The Cubs and Cavs both completing miraculous comebacks to give their fans championships they waited a long time for. More close to this situation is the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl run after Hurricane Katrina.
The Chargers’ final season in San Diego could have been one of those narratives. The team makes a historical Super Bowl run in their final year in sunny San Diego. Unfortunately blowing a lead in 15 of 16 games isn’t going to help with that. But what if it is still part of a larger narrative? The Chargers just couldn’t get in done last year in San Diego, as often the case in that city. But a return to their original home in one of the biggest sports markets, plus a little L.A. magic? It’s just crazy enough to come true. Or at least I’d like to think.