NFL Update: L.A. Chargers Look Like AFC West Division Winners

I, like most NFL fans, wasn’t bullish on the 2017 L.A. Chargers. The Bolts had gone through one of the messiest looking moves in recent NFL history. The former San Diego Chargers had decided to move back to the city from whence they originated, Los Angeles.

The big reason for the lack of confidence is because the Bolts play at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. That’s not close to the L.A. Coliseum where the Rams play. It sure appeared as if the Bolts might end up winning 4 to 5 games this season. That was on the high-end.

Before NFL Week 15, though, the Los Angeles Chargers are awesome. No, really. The Chargers started out the season losing their first 4 games. Somehow, someway, the Chargers have won 7 of their last 9 games.

Can the L.A. Chargers keep it up? Check out a review of what I wrote in my L.A. Chargers preview. Then, I’ll get to the bottom line!

Los Angeles Chargers 2017 Update

Can the Chargers Deal with the Changes?

Answer:  Changes? What changes?

Change is good, right? Not necessarily. It’s not bad if the change is ultra-positive. What’s so funny about the Chargers huge change, going from San Diego to Los Angeles, might be an ultra-positive change. Or, it might not.

In the Bolts’ first 4 games of the season, it sure appeared as if the move was going to derail L.A.’s season before it even began. The Chargers lost 21 to 24 to Denver. They dropped their Week 2 game 17 to 19 to Miami. Kansas City beat the Bolts 24 to 10. The Philadelphia Eagles dropped the Bolts to 0 and 4 after beating LAC 26 to 24.

3 of the Chargers first 4 losses were at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. That’s where the L.A. Chargers are playing their games until the proposed stadium at old Hollywood Park is finished. The reason everyone didn’t believe in the Chargers had as much to do with LAC’s fan base as it did with the Chargers themselves.

Only 25,381 fans showed up to the Bolts’ first home game this season. In their second home game versus popular Kansas City, 25, 386 fans showed up. How many fans donning the lightning bolt showed up in the Chargers third home game of the season? 25,374. The Bolts had 14 less fans show up to their third home game than they had show up to their second home game.

No wonder L.A. was doomed to failure. Nobody in Los Angeles seemed to care whether the Chargers won or lost. Then, a small miracle happened. Starting in Week 5, the Chargers became a winning team.

Is Anthony Lynn the One to Keep it Together?

Answer:  He definitely is

Most every NFL fan on the planet knew that hiring Anthony Lynn was a good idea. Lynn had been the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. After Buffalo fired Rex Ryan towards the end of last season, Lynn took over. The Bills weren’t a great team. But, they didn’t quit.

It’s takes someone like Anthony Lynn to turn around an 0 and 4 franchise in a single season. That’s what Lynn has done. How? He’s done it by embracing old school football tactics.

Lynn believes in the ground and pound philosophy. His whole viewpoint is to control the clock, rest the defense, and then unleash his talented defense on the opposing team in the fourth quarter. What’s interesting is that the Bolts average less than 100 rushing yards per game.

How does Lynn employ ground and pound even though his best running back averages 3.7 yards per carry? Lynn has his offense throw the football to his running backs. Melvin Gordon has caught 43 passes this season. Austin Ekeler, Gordon’t back-up, has caught 26 passes.

It also helps that Lynn’s defense doesn’t look to stop teams from moving the football. The Chargers are fantastic at stopping the pass. They’re not all that great at stopping the rush. No worries. LAC allows less than 17.5 points per game on average that ranks second in the NFL.

Charger QB Phillip Rivers is Still Awesome

Rivers has been great. The real reason Philip Rivers has been great is because like Drew Brees in New Orleans, the veteran QB has embraced the new offensive system. Rivers isn’t out there knowing that he must throw it for 400 yards and toss 3 TD passes for the Bolts to win the football game.

For most of his career, that’s the way its been. Lynn’s taken pressure off Rivers. It’s shown. He’s become, arguably, the best clock manager in the NFL. What’s almost as inspiring is that Philip appears to be peaking at the right moment.

In the Chargers first 9 games of the season, Rivers broke the QB rating century mark 4 times. He didn’t hit an 80 QB rating in 3 of the 5 other games. He was barely under 100 in Week 1, the 21 to 24 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Since Week 10, Philip Rivers has recorded 4 straight triple-digit QB ratings. That’s important to note for a couple of reasons. First, Rivers has become ultra-comfortable in Lynn’s offensive system. Second, Rivers is fresh towards the end of the season.

The second part is more important than the first part. Veteran quarterbacks are expected to pick up a new offensive system. What veteran quarterbacks aren’t supposed to do is look like the season just started in Week 14. Rivers energy implies that he’s having no trouble towards the end of the NFL Regular Season.

That’s great news for Charger fans.

The Entire Chargers Defense Rocks

Almost too quietly, DE Joey Bosa has put together an NFL Defensive MVP type season. With 3 games left in the regular season, Bosa has 11.5 quarterback sacks. He’s forced 4 fumbles. He has 45 solo tackles. The man is an absolute beast.

But, Bosa isn’t the only individual that deserves praise. In fact, the entire L.A. Chargers defense has become one of the better units in the NFL. By deciding to be great against the pass, Lynn has allowed the Chargers’ defense to maintain their energy levels until the fourth quarter.

It takes more energy to stop the rush than it does to stop the pass. The reason is because collisions happen much more often during rushing plays than they do during passing plays. The Chargers defenders hold their ground while not necessarily pushing forward.

This allows Bolts’ defenders to leave something in the tank in the fourth quarter. The Chargers aren’t the only defense that employs this strategy. The Jacksonville Jaguars are also a classic leave something for the fourth quarter defense.

Bottom Line:  Chargers Could go to the Super Bowl this Season

In their last home game, a 30 to 13 win over Washington, less than 25,400 people showed up to watch the Chargers win their 4th straight. It didn’t matter. The Bolts haven’t just dealt with the huge change. They’ve embraced it. They don’t care if the Rams are the more popular of the two NFL franchises in Los Angeles.

The Chargers are going to win no matter where they play. That’s the bottom line with this team. In the past month, no team, not Philadelphia, not Pittsburgh, not New England, has impressed me as much as the L.A. Chargers have. The Chargers defense has become one of the strongest in the NFL.

The offense has become one of the best. Rivers is playing better towards the end of the regular season than he did earlier in the season. He looks like a 3-year pro out there. It sounds crazy, but I believe the Bolts have a great shot at making it to Super Bowl 52.

On Oct. 29, the Patriots beat the Bolts 21 to 13. The Chargers are a much better team now than they were then. At KC, at the Jets, and versus Oakland means that Los Angeles has a great shot of winning the AFC West. If they do, forget it. They’ll be the one team in the AFC Playoffs that nobody wants to face.

What do you think?

Written by D.S. Williamson