The Los Angeles Chargers overcame an 0-4 start to finish the 2017 at 9-7, but it wasn’t good enough to get them back to the postseason. The Chargers have now failed to make the playoffs each of the last 4 years and 7 of the last 8 overall.
While the end result wasn’t what they had hoped for, there was plenty of optimism taken from last year’s strong finish. Especially when you factor in that last year was the Charger’s first in LA and the first under head coach Anthony Lynn.
There won’t be the same positive vibes if the Chargers fail to make the playoffs again in 2018. Los Angeles is considered by many to be the favorites to win the AFC West and it’s easy to see why people are excited about this team.
The success of this team relies heavily on veteran quarterback Philip Rivers. The 36-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, but the end is definitely near for Rivers. It will be critical that he stays in top form.
The second most important player is running back Melvin Gordon, who is coming off a breakout season. Gordon rushed for 1,105 yards and 8 scores, while also catching 58 passes for 476 yards. The only concern is that despite Gordon finishing 7th in the NFL in individual rushing yards, the team as a whole was just 24th in the league at 99.7 ypg. If Gordon misses significant time, the offense might become to dependent on the passing game.
Speaking of the passing game, the Chargers have already suffered a big blow. Emerging tight end Hunter Henry, who many thought was primed for a monster year following the retirement of Antonio Gates, was lost for the season to a torn ACL in OTA’s. That puts a lot of pressure on free agent tight end Virgil Green, unless Gates comes out of retirement, which I don’t think would surprise anyone.
The good news is there’s some decent options for Rivers to work with at receiver. Keenan Allen was finally able to stay healthy and put up a monster season with 102 catches for 1,393 yards and 6 scores. Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin both contributed, but the hope is that last year’s No. 1 draft pick, Mike Williams, will have a much bigger impact. Williams’ rookie season got off to a horrible start because of a herniated disc in his lower back, which cost him all of training camp and the first 6 games of the season.
One of the big positives from last year was how well the offensive line played. What was a major weakness for several years has become a strength and just got a heck of a lot better with the free agent signing of center Mike Pouncey. They also get back guard Forest Lamp, who missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury. The expectation is for Lamp to start right away at right guard.
Turning to the defensive side of the ball, it all starts up front with the dynamic pass rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Bosa has been every bit as good as advertised and has to be considered one of the best defensive players in the game right now. Bose finished the year with 12.5 sacks and Ingram wasn’t far behind with 10.5. The two also combined for 151 quarterback pressures, which was the best mark of any tandem in the NFL.
The problem is there’s not a lot else to be overly excited about with the front 7. Defensive tackles Corey Liuget and Brandon Mebane weren’t great and some teams were able to expose LA up the middle in the running game. As far as the linebackers go, there’s nothing special there . The team is really hoping that 2nd round pick Uchenna Nwosu comes in and has an immediate impact.
Not only do the Chargers have a great pass rush, but they also have a strong secondary, which appears to be getting an upgrade at a couple spots. Casey Hayward has solidified himself as one of the top corners and there’s no shortage of talent around him. Trevor Williams stepped in and played better than expected in place of Pro Bowl corner Jason Verrett, who missed all of last season with an injury. Both are back and ready to go, as is second year pro Desmond King, who played well in the nickel role. Hard-hitting strong safety Jahleel Addae will be now playing alongside 1st round pick Derwin James out of FSU and big things are expected from James right out of the gate.
The big question remains the same that it’s been for several years now with LA. Will this team live up to their potential? It feels like every year there’s several experts picking the Chargers to be a serious threat in the AFC and they keep coming up short. Will 2018 be the season that LA lives up to the hype or will it just be another disappointment?
2018 Chargers Schedule & Projected Odds
Below you will find the early odds released by Vegas for Weeks 1-16, as well as my projected number for Week 17. Using the lines we are able to give a game-by-game win probability, which we used to come up an expected win total.
|15||at Chiefs TNF||+2||0.47|
Projected Wins: 9.22
Over/Under Wins Prediction: OVER 9.5
If I was playing the Chargers win total, I would have to lean towards taking the OVER, even though I don’t think there’s a ton of value at the current number of 9.5. I know LA just has to win 1 more game than they did last year, but the Chargers haven’t posted a double-digit win season since 2009.
The thing is, given the talent LA has on both sides of the ball, I don’t see this team regressing. At this point we know what to expect from Rivers, but I don’t think there’s going to be the same pressure of having to carry this side of the ball. The addition of Pouncey at center should do wonders for the running game and if the Chargers can find a way to get up into the top half of the league in rushing, they are going to be extremely difficult to stop.
With a defense that has all that talent in the secondary and arguably the best pass rushing duo in the NFL, no team is going to want to play from behind against LA. All of that should add up to this team going at least 10-6 with the potential for a lot more. Keep in mind this team won 9 games last year despite going just 3-5 in one-score games (8-points or less).
Odds to Win the Super Bowl: +2200
The problem with teams like the Chargers who get pegged by the media as one of the teams to watch out for, they often don’t show a ton of value when it comes to their future odds. With that said, I do think there is some value here with Los Angeles at +2200 to win the Super Bowl.
Not only do they have talent littered across their roster, they have an experienced quarterback and a defense that gave up the 3rd fewest points in the league last year (17.0). Two things that I think are critical to success in the playoffs.
Odds to Win the AFC: +950
Los Angeles has the fifth best odds to win the AFC behind the Patriots (+250), Steelers (+400), Texans (+850) and Jaguars (+900). As you can see, there’s really not that separates them from either the Jaguars or Texans.
That speaks volumes to how highly regarded this team is going into 2018, but once again it’s not ideal in terms of value. You typically would see a lot more value on a team to win their conference when they haven’t been to the playoffs in almost a decade.
Odds to Win the AFC West: +175
I mentioned earlier that the last time the Chargers won 10 or more games was in 2009. That’s also the last time they won the AFC West. Despite their recent inability to finish on top of the division, LA currently has the best odds of the four teams to win the AFC West. With that said, they are far from the overwhelming favorite, as their odds are just slightly better than the both the Raiders and Chiefs, who both are sitting at +275. Denver also isn’t too far back at +400.
I don’t think it would surprise anyone if the Chargers won the AFC West in 2018, but it’s far from a sure thing. I personally think the Chiefs are still the team to beat in the division and just don’t feel there’s a whole lot of value with the price to bet LA for this prop.