Must-wins, weird London games and world famous sandwiches

CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers makes a catch for a touchdown while being guarded by Leonard Johnson #24 of the Buffalo Bills taking a 10 point lead during the second quarter of the game at the StubHub Center on November 19, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - NOVEMBER 19: Keenan Allen #13 of the Los Angeles Chargers makes a catch for a touchdown while being guarded by Leonard Johnson #24 of the Buffalo Bills taking a 10 point lead during the second quarter of the game at the StubHub Center on November 19, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

We live in a sensationalist world. Every second is precious. Every action is urgent. Every sandwich on every menu at every restaurant I visit is labeled “world famous.”

So, take the following with a hefty heap of salt if you must — I have about as much luck predicting Los Angeles Chargers seasons as I do finding foreign witnesses to corroborate said fame of the aforementioned sandwiches. I think that Sunday’s contest in Buffalo is an absolute must-win, and given that it’s also a game the Chargers should win, the warning alarms in my head are going absolutely bananas.

Now, before I go on, let me assure you, I know what you’re thinking:

  • “It’s the Bills, Jake!! THE BILLS!! Joe Flacco Beat the Bills!!”
  • “Hey, Captain Overreaction! It’s only Week 2.” Calm Down.” 
  • “Dude, I stopped reading this article at ‘sandwich.'”

Honestly, I can’t say I blame you. You’re right. It is the Bills. It is only Week 2. It was weird of me to start discussing lunch meat.

But, if you’ll indulge me for just a little bit longer, let me tell you why you also might be wrong.

First things first. Throw out Week 1. I understand the shock value in what Flacco did, but weird things happen in the first week of the season. Teams are still gelling — defenses and offensive lines especially — and unless you’re willing to staunchly defend the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets as this season’s burgeoning offensive powerhouses, I think we can come to an agreement that it’s at least within the realm of possibility that the Baltimore Ravens played a really good game, and the Bills might not be that bad.

Remember, the Bills started Nate Peterman at quarterback last week. The same Peterman that threw five interceptions at StubHub Center a year ago and who, in three career starts, has never thrown for more than 66 yards.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably watched enough football to understand that the effects of bad quarterback play reach far beyond his wide receivers. They force running backs to stare down stacked boxes. They force tight ends to forego their routes in favor of blocking. They pit tired defenders against energized offenses with consistently advantageous field position.

That’s why quarterbacks get paid the big bucks. And why Peterman probably won’t.

But, enough about bad quarterbacks. Lets talk about one who might not be.

Enter Josh Allen.

The rookie out of Wyoming has mysteriously transformed from a consensus “sure thing” into a bit of an enigma. On one hand, he’s an incredibly mobile athlete (see Mahomes, Patrick) who has an absolute cannon for an arm (see again: Mahomes, Patrick). Sure, he may not be working with receivers remotely resembling Tyreek Hill, but what he does have in both Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones is a duo of big-bodied bruisers (6’5″ and 6’2″ respectively) who, without the presence of Joey Bosa, should have all the time they need to get down field and into position to compete with smaller cornerbacks for very winnable jump-balls.

Maybe they catch those jump-balls. Maybe those catches force Gus Bradley to stop stacking the box. Maybe LeSean McCoy does LeSean McCoy things and helps the Bills’ offense move the sticks, chew clock and give a talented group of defenders the rest and field position they need to cause headaches for an already banged-up Chargers’ offensive line.

Just like its inverse, good quarterback play has a tangible trickle-down effect. And while Allen very well may struggle, he very well may not. He’s an uber-talented unknown, and wouldn’t be the first with that label to be successful out of the gates.

Fine. I’ll bite. Maybe Josh Allen torches us and we lose to Buffalo. It’s still only Week 2. Why is this a must-win?

I’m so glad you asked. And as a reward, I’ll provide you with a very concise answer:


Want the longer answer? Thought you might. First, let’s take into account the Chargers’ recent history against AFC West teams (hint: it ain’t great).

In the spirit of optimism, say they win three of the remaining 5=five division games – add those to the Week 1 result, and you’re already staring down three losses.

Sure, teams have made the playoffs starting off a lot worse than 3-3, but now consider the non-division schedule

  • @ Rams
  • vs. 49ers
  • @ Browns
  • vs. Titans (London)
  • vs. Cardinals
  • @ Steelers
  • vs. Bengals
  • vs. Ravens

At first glance, it doesn’t look too shabby. The Browns are always good for a win, right? The Titans and Cardinals? They looked terrible last week! And Andy Dalton!? That’s four easy wins right there!

Remember, it’s important to discount Week 1 struggles here. The Cleveland Browns have a lot of talent. The Tennessee Titans game is being played in London, which as a rule makes it unpredictable. The Arizona Cardinals — in David Johnson & Chandler Jones — have two of the most explosive players in the game, and on any given day, I firmly believe that they can beat any given team.

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I have no such defense for the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s Andy Dalton.

All of this (as I cautioned) is the long way of telling you that after this week’s tilt in Buffalo, concretely “should-win” games are going to be at a premium for the Chargers. The schedule doesn’t set up well for another late-season run. And even if it did, I’m not sure my heart could take it.

Fine. I give in. This is a must-win game. Let’s sit on pins and needles and be nervous wrecks during a pre-Halloween football game. That seems like a good use of our energy. Now, address the sandwich in the room already!

Seriously? You’re still reading this? Fine. You got me. The sandwich thing was weird. No sandwich is world-famous. Not even the #19 at Langer’s Deli. But if the Chargers lose this week and your hopes and dreams go down the drain, it just might be the cure. So at least there’s that.