The LA Chargers are currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the AFC playoff picture. The Chargers are not one of the seven teams in the playoff picture after losing to the Houston Texans in embarrassing fashion in Week 16.
The Chargers controlled their own destiny heading into Week 16 and now the team has to get some more help to make the playoffs this season. However, the Chargers making the playoffs is still the most likely outcome, as they have a higher chance to make the playoffs over the other teams they are competing with for the seventh seed, per FiveThirtyEight.
What makes this reality even worse if the what-ifs that we can play with the LA Chargers. Of course, every single team in the league can look at certain games or moments and think what-if. However, the LA Chargers have a legitimate what-if that could have been the reality as I write this article today.
The LA Chargers could have easily been the no. 1 seed in the AFC and the Derwin James injury might have kept that from happening.
Of course, we cannot blame the best defensive player on the LA Chargers for the team being 8-7 this season. It is not James' fault that Travis Kelce went nuclear when James got hut or that the defense was absolutely atrocious in Week 16 against the Texans.
But would things have been different if James played? Probably. While the Chargers still had a lot of holes in the defense, having James back there to call the shots and anchor the defense would have made a difference against the Texans. Suddenly, those deep bombs that Davis Mills threw probably would not have happened. Perhaps some of the third-down luck would have been better with James.
The same can be said against the Chiefs and probably more so than the Texans. James was absolutely locking Travis Kelce down and the main reason why the Chiefs won is that Kelce went off. With James in the game, the Chiefs may not have even made it to overtime against the Chargers.
Again, these are both what-ifs, but there is a better chance than not that the Bolts would have won both of those games if James would have stayed healthy. That would put the Chargers at 10-5 and they would have the joint-best record in the AFC.
Their conference record would be two games better at 7-3. That would be better than both the Chiefs and the Tennessee Titans. It would have made the Chargers the no. 1 seed in the AFC with two easy games against the Broncos and Raiders on the horizon.
Instead, we cannot even be confident that the team will make the playoffs because the Bolts no longer control their own destiny. That is the Derwin James effect.