After suffering the crushing disappointment of missing out on the playoffs to a last-minute field goal in their final regular season game, the Chargers are aiming to make a bigger impact this season.
NFL bookmakers rank the Chargers in the top 10 in the race to the Super Bowl, according to the latest sports book odds, but the strength of the AFC West is apparent as two of their three Divisional rivals, the Broncos and the Chiefs, are also in that top 10.
The Chargers can boast one of the most exciting players in the NFL in quarterback Justin Herbert, who grabbed the headlines on multiple occasions last season, including in the final game, when a series of fourth-down passes kept the Chargers in the game almost until the end.
The fact that Herbert is still on his rookie deal has enabled the Chargers to go for broke in the offseason, following the template set by the Rams, and they have added significant depth to their roster.
Defensive end Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson are eye-catching signings to add to what was already a strong-looking group. That roster includes elite defensive stars Derwin James and Joey Bosa, as well as the duo of Mike Williams and Keenan Allen, who are among the best receiving pairings in the NFL. They also have an elite running back in Austin Ekeler and have further boosted the offensive line by adding Austin Johnson and Sebastian Joseph-Day.
With all those pieces in place, everything is set for the Chargers to make a serious Super Bowl bid. However, Chargers fans will also know that there is a lot that can go wrong along the way and unfortunately their franchise has often failed to make the most of its talent.
In fact, they haven’t won the Divisional title since 2009 and have not made it past the playoff Divisional Round since 1994. That was the year that they made their first, and so far only, Super Bowl appearance. This is despite having talented teams throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Too often they have found a way to slip up. Last season, it was a barely excusable 41-29 defeat against the Texans that ultimately could have cost them their playoff spot.
There is still plenty of reason for optimism though. Last year’s formidable offense is still in place, and the defense looks significantly stronger, making them a much more balanced team. We can also expect some improvement from head coach Brandon Staley in his second season, as there were a few calls last year that he got wrong along the way.
Kicking off with games against the Raiders and the Chiefs is not ideal, but the Chargers are used to the competitive nature of this Division and should see those opening games as a chance to make a statement and make their mark on the AFC West. They also have winnable games against the Texans, Browns, Jaguars and Seahawks in the first half of the season, which gives them a chance to build a platform on which to launch their Super Bowl challenge.