Best and worst-case scenarios for the Chargers in 2022 after free agency additions

Quarterback Justin Herbert (10) speaks to his teammates on offense during L.A.'s season finale game against the Raiders on January 9, 2022.
Quarterback Justin Herbert (10) speaks to his teammates on offense during L.A.'s season finale game against the Raiders on January 9, 2022. / Chris Unger/GettyImages

In one of the most hectic offseasons in recent memory (and it just started), the Los Angeles Chargers are starting to look like the Chargers of old. What do I mean when I say “the Chargers of old?” Well, we need to go back to the mid-2000s when L.A. was in S.D. and the Chargers ruled the AFC West to the tune of four-straight divisional titles. Back then, the team’s high water mark was the 2006 season when they went 14-2 under head coach Marty Schottenheimer and featured 11 Pro Bowlers on their roster. 

Now, what does this history lesson mean for the current squad? Perhaps that 2006 team is the ceiling for the 2022 roster if everything breaks the right way. In fact, some are even saying the Bolts have one of the best collections of talent in the AFC.

However, as many Chargers fans are well aware, that is much easier said than done in Southern California. Below, we will go over the best and worst-case scenarios for the 2022 season for the Bolts. 

Best case scenario for the Chargers: 13-3, AFC West Divisional Title, AFC Championship appearance

A true best-case situation, this is the season where everything goes in the right direction for the Chargers. Quarterback Justin Herbert continues his meteoric ascent to the ruling class of quarterbacks in the NFL with another Pro Bowl, and potentially All-Pro season. Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams all are able to reach the 1,000-yard mark and Los Angeles has a 2020s-edition of “Three’s Company.”

The offensive line works together wonderfully and the new right tackle (fingers crossed for Charles Cross) from the 2022 NFL Draft is the final piece for the L.A. offensive juggernaut. 

However, where the biggest strides are taken is with the Chargers' defensive unit. The additions of Khalil Mack and J.C. Jackson offer a Pro Bowl complement to stud defenders Derwin James and Joey Bosa. The meat of the defensive line is fortified with newcomers Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson while younger players like Kenneth Murray Jr. and Jerry Tillery find their strides.

This unit does have talent and as the Bolts shore up their abysmal run defense situation from a year ago, the team continues to improve each week. Unfortunately, the only thing standing in the way of a Chargers Super Bowl is the loaded AFC Conference which is a juggernaut in itself. 

Worst case scenario for the Chargers: 7-9, misses playoffs 

In a scenario all too familiar for Chargers fans, Los Angeles misses the playoffs in crushing fashion for the fourth consecutive season. Due to injuries, bad luck, poor game management, and being struck by lightning twice, the Chargers are unable to string together enough wins in the brutal AFC West. L.A., maligned by inconsistent play from their third-year quarterback, regresses in 2022 and drops winnable games against the Dolphins, Texans (again), Falcons and Browns.

Coach Brandon Staley is panned for his critical play-calling miscues and another season in NFL purgatory is where the Chargers end 2022. Ultimately, the Chargers are unable to make the most of a favorable AFC West schedule and meet their high expectations.

Final Thoughts

While this is of course a list of hypothetical scenarios, perhaps history will be the best guide for where the Bolts will land. In the second season of the last four Chargers regimes, there has been a myriad level of results. Schottenheimer's 2003 squad plummeted to 4-12 but rebounded a year later to go 12-4. Norv Turner's second year saw the Bolts end up at 8-8, but advance to the Divisional Round of the 2009 NFL Playoffs. Mike McCoy's roster ended up with a winning record at 9-7 but were unable to make the postseason. Finally, Anthony Lynn's 2018 Bolts had the most success with a 12-4 campaign and another appearance in the Divisional Round.

So with that in mind, Los Angeles does seem to have all the right pieces in place for a stellar 2022, especially if they ace the NFL Draft. It is also worth noting that Los Angeles does have a healthy amount of cap space remaining. It remains to be seen if that can happen, but as history has shown us in the past, if you have a superstar quarterback and enough Pro Bowl pieces, good things are bound to happen.