It sounds hyperbolic. How can a game against an NFC South opponent in Week 9 be the most important game of the season for the LA Chargers? The Chargers are currently 4-3 on the season and have plenty of football to play the rest of the way.
Admittedly, the Chargers will have more important games later in the season as long as they can actually pull off a win in this game against the Atlanta Falcons. However, without a win in Week 9, those important matchups later in the season won't mean anything at all.
This Week 9 game against the Falcons is far more important than any game the team has played thus far and is the table-setter for the rest of the season. A loss in Week 9 would be detrimental. A win could at least keep the team afloat in the AFC playoff picture.
Why the Chargers' Week 9 matchup vs the Atlanta Falcons is the most important game of the year:
First of all, we have to look at the trends and the narratives heading into this matchup. The Chargers stumbled into the bye week with an ugly loss to the Seattle Seahawks and while the team has a winning record, they have not been playing winning football.
There is legitimate heat on this coaching staff with how this team has been outcoached several times this season. If the Chargers go into the bye week, get an extra week of preparation, and cannot beat an Atlanta Falcons team that has Marcus Mariota at quarterback it will be a very bad look.
Don't get me wrong, the Falcons have been far better than anyone expected them to be before the season. But this is still a team that the Chargers have far more talent than. If anything, the Falcons are the perfect median team in the NFL to be a litmus test for. If you can beat them you are a good team. If you can't, you probably aren't.
More importantly, we have to look at the team's upcoming schedule. After facing the Falcons, the Chargers are on the road to take on the San Francisco 49ers and then are at home against the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chargers are probably going to be nearly a touchdown underdog against the 49ers and rightfully so. It is really hard to see a path in which the Chargers can beat a team with as many athletic weapons on offense as the 49ers that can also generate pressure on the quarterback with four pass rushers. San Francisco might actually be the worst matchup in the entire league for LA.
The Chiefs games are always close but these two teams feel far different than they did in Week 2 when they matched up. With all the injuries and poor coaching decisions, the Chargers feel like they are laps behind the Chiefs in terms of overall talent. That doesn't mean they can't beat them, but it is hard to be confident in this team against Kansas City, especially without Mike Williams.
If the Chargers lose to Atlanta then the pressure will continue to mount and with two bad matchups in back-to-back weeks, it easily can snowball on an inexperienced head coach and result in a four-game losing streak that puts the Chargers at 4-6.
While the AFC is the land of mediocre football teams, the Chargers would have to finish 5-2 at worst in order to secure a playoff spot. If the team is 4-6, the chances of them finishing 5-2 are very slim.
However, if the Chargers can beat the Falcons they can at least ensure that they will be 5-5 at worst after 10 games. It might just be one game but the difference between 5-5 and 4-6 is massive. Since 1970, 25.6% of teams with a 5-5 record made the playoffs. Only 7.5% of 4-6 teams made the playoffs.
And who knows, a big win over Atlanta after the bye week could give the Chargers some much-needed momentum, potentially giving them a split against the 49ers and Chiefs. If that happens, and the team is 6-4 after 10 games, they would be in a fantastic spot.