Ahead of the 2018 NFL season, we’re bringing you a series outlining which teams are getting too much hype and what rosters are sneakily going under the radar.
Disclaimer: I hate your favourite team, regardless of who they are. Please use this rationale if it makes you feel better after hearing about how your team aren’t half as good as they think they are.
If you’ve missed our previews, check them out here:
- Jags a Super Bowl lock – with a better quarterback
- Brees can carry the New Orleans Saints to the playoffs again
- Can the Philadelphia Eagles defend their crown?
- NFL: Are Green Bay finally giving Aaron Rodgers the support he needs?
Los Angeles Chargers
Projected Wins: 9
Not only did San Diego lose their favourite sports team (it is not the Padres, it never was the Padres and never will be the Padres), they also lost the catchiest fight song in the NFL. No more can we hear the sweet melody associated with the ‘San Diegoooo – Super Chaaargers’, because the Spanos went and packed up for an overcrowded Los Angeles market.
They have no home-field advantage, but still won nine of their last 12 games last year. They couldn’t run the ball, either – despite having a feature back and a quarterback who thrives off play-action passes much like his predecessor Drew Brees.
So what does all of this mean? Well, the Chargers are the hipster choice to win the Super Bowl now.
It’s easy to see why, too. If they manage to run the ball, they’re the most efficient offence in the NFL and their division is now at its lowest standard in six years. Philip Rivers is still an elite quarterback and while the loss of Hunter Henry stings, the emergence of last year’s first-round pick Mike Williams has the size to be used in similar fashion.
In terms of key losses, the Chargers coughed up defensive line depth more than anything else – something they already had plenty of. They’re missing Corey Liuget in the interior for the first four weeks of the season, but should they find production at the D-tackle spot, it bodes well for the run-in, given the progression of the sneaky-good Isaac Rochell and Chris Landrum.
This team had an elite defence last season and their first four picks in this year’s NFL draft were all on that side of the ball, too. They’ve added speed, which was the focus of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, in the shape of Uchenna Nwosu and Kyzir White. They avoided flashy spending in free agency, as is the hallmark of General Manager Tom Telesco, but they may have snagged the best defensive player in the draft at pick 17 in the shape of Derwin James.
There truly isn’t a whole lot this unit can’t do, and when you closely examine it, only ill-health has stopped them mounting playoff runs over the past few seasons. They may have lost Jason Verrett, but he was never truly considered more than a bonus to a club that have seen his injury history first-hand.
It isn’t outlandish to say the Chargers have both the best secondary and wide receiving corps in the entire league. Combine this with a relatively easy schedule and this should be a straightforward pick.
Keenan Allen became the first player in the history of the league to record 100 yards, a touchdown and 10 receptions in three straight games last year. Travis Benjamin is a true deep threat, while Tyrell Williams is in the top five yards-per-reception list – he’s a big play monster. They also add in Mike Williams, who is their first real jump-ball target since Vincent Jackson left for Tampa Bay.
They key is getting Melvin Gordon into positions for him to break the tackles he’s done on occasion, but not often enough due to poor blocking. If their pre-season game against New Orleans is anything to go by, the addition of Mike Pouncey, the progression of last year’s third-round pick Dan Feeney and the soon-to-be plug-in right guard Forest Lamp will dominate up front.
If this comes to pass and the Chargers’ bad injury luck is out, perhaps the hipster choice might be the smart one.
Schedule-wise, they should topple Oakland and Denver with relative ease – but they’ve to get the monkey off their shoulder when it comes to beating Kansas City. They simply can’t seem to manage it. Split that head-to-head and they’re 5-1 in-division.
They also welcome the 49ers, Titans (in London), Cardinals, Bengals and Ravens. Their out-of-division opponents away from home are the Bills, Browns, Seahawks, Steelers and Rams. Their trip to the Rams should take about 20 minutes on the freeway.
This schedule is set up for the Chargers to notch a 12-win season. And they will.