The NFL officially voted to expand the NFL season to 17 games starting in the 2021 season. The preseason will now only be three games long. The 17th game will always be a non-conference game and the LA Chargers got a ninth home game as the AFC teams are hosting this season.
Next season, the Chargers will have nine road games as the NFC teams will be hosting the non-conference extra matchup.
The criteria to determine the extra opponent is based on which inter-conference division the team played two seasons ago as well as the standings from the previous season. For example, two seasons ago (2019) the NFC division that the AFC West played was the NFC North. The Chargers finished third in the AFC West last season, so they play last season’s third-place team from the NFC North.
That means the Chargers are playing the Minnesota Vikings, the Kansas City Chiefs are playing the Green Bay Packers, the Las Vegas Raiders are playing the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos are playing the Detroit Lions.
Next year, the Chargers will be on the road against whichever NFC South team finishes in the same place as the Chargers in the AFC West. You get the picture.
As far as the 2021 season goes, one thing is for certain.
The LA Chargers were gifted another likely win against the Minnesota Vikings.
Nothing against any Minnesota Vikings fans or my colleague Adam Patrick over at The Viking Age, but this is a great matchup for the LA Chargers. Both teams were 7-9 last season but the Chargers are going to match up very well against Minnesota.
Minnesota’s defense (in particular, the secondary) was very poor last season. Minnesota ranked 29th in the league in points allowed per game (29.7) and 25th in passing yards allowed (25th).
Keep in mind that is also with the team getting to play the Bears twice, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Andy Dalton-led Dallas Cowboys. Minnesota did not do very well against elite-level quarterbacks like Justin Herbert.
They did hold Tom Brady in their matchup but Brady had several games in the regular season where he looked his age. Aaron Rodgers threw for 364 yards, Matt Ryan threw for 363 yards, Drew Brees threw for 319 yards… must we continue?
Offensively, the Vikings are not a team that the Chargers have to be scared of. Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook are both fantastic but Minnesota’s offense still was not that high scoring. They ranked 11th in total scoring last season, averaging 26.9 points per game.
The Chargers averaged 24.5 points per game in Justin Herbert starts and if we remove the shutout against New England, where Bill Belichick coached circles around Anthony Lynn, then they averaged 26.3 points per game.
With a less conservative captain piloting the ship and an elite young quarterback the Chargers are primed to be an offensive juggernaut in 2021, which is going to be hard for the Vikings to handle. The Vikings will be able to keep up, but can Kirk Cousins and the running game keep up with Justin Herbert against a bad secondary? Doubtful.
And I know that the Vikings fans in my life will tell me about the additions that the Vikings made and will make this offseason. They will get some help in the 2021 NFL Draft, but so will the LA Chargers, and their free-agent signings were not spectacular.
Dalvin Tomlinson is a decent defensive tackle, Xavier Woods and Stephen Weatherly do help the secondary but are not great and Patrick Peterson is washed.
This is a defense that Justin Herbert can torch and at home, the LA Chargers should be able to hold up defensively to get the win.
Add one win to whatever your record prediction was for the LA Chargers in 2021.