The Chiefs deserve all of the headlines they’re getting, but sleeping on the Chargers as legitimate AFC contenders would be a huge mistake.
At first glance, the Chargers’ 4-2 record doesn’t scream Super Bowl contender. However, closer examination proves Philip Rivers and company could easily be underrated. After all, they’ve only lost to the Chiefs and Rams this season.
Winning in Cleveland doesn’t immediately anoint a team as AFC contenders, but it was a positive step forward for the Chargers. The fact that they beat the Browns wasn’t all that surprising, blowing out Baker Mayfield and company by a score of 38-14 should capture the attention of NFL observers.
In fairness, the Chargers aren’t doing anything new. This team still relies on Rivers and the passing game to a large degree. Fortunately, the aging quarterback is still playing at a really high level. He finished Sunday’s game against the Browns with a completion percentage of over 70 percent on the campaign. Rivers also features an excellent touchdown to interception ratio of 13:2.
The reemergence of Melvin Gordon at running back also elevates the Chargers’ ceiling. He’s only rushed for 334 yards on the season, but he has been an efficient rusher. If he can maintain his average of 4.6 yards per carry all season this team should finish the year with a top five offense in the NFL.
The determining factor on how good this team can be in 2018 will be the defense. Currently, their overall numbers don’t look great on that side of the ball. The unit ranks 21st in the NFL when it comes to points allowed this season. However, you have to remember their defensive numbers are suffering from giving up big points to the Rams and Chiefs. The defense has played much better against non-elite offenses.
It’s also worth noting that they’ve played the entire year without Joey Bosa. Provided he can return this season, he’ll give Anthony Lynn and the defensive coaching staff a massive boost. He’s the type of dynamic pass rusher that can elevate this defense from the middle of the pack all the way up to a top 10 unit by season’s end.
No one is saying the Chargers are the favorites in the AFC, but discounting them as a serious threat to make a deep playoff run would be a mistake at this point in the season. They have enough offensive firepower to outscore anyone in the NFL and the defense should be on the rise. At the very least, they are a team to watch moving forward.