What Happened Last Year?
Before the 2016 season, fans in San Diego had a glimmer of hope for their team in 2016. It was no secret that the AFC West was going to be tough to succeed in, but the Chargers had no shortage of talent. That applied to both sides of the ball. After all, they still had Phillip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Melvin Ingram, etc. They also had many players coming back from injury, most notably Keenan Allen. They also added Joey Bosa through the draft, hoping he would help the struggling defensive line. Hope began to fade after week one of the season though. Keenan Allen would go down with yet another season ending injury. That only scratched the surface as to what was coming for them. Injuries would continue to take down players throughout the season, eliminating depth and claiming more big name players, such as Jason Verrett and Danny Woodhead. The Chargers also struggled to hold on to their leads throughout the year, including the week 1 game against Kansas City, where the Chiefs would score 17 points in the 4th quarter to defeat them. This would happen throughout the course of the season. Another huge issue that was associated with this was the defense’s inability to keep the opposing team out of the end zone, allowing an average of 26.4 PPG. The offensive line struggled as well, forcing Phillip Rivers to be much more careless with the ball. The talent was present on the Chargers in 2016, but not on the field. Injuries derailed San Diego’s last chance to win it all.
Major Acquisitions: Mike Williams (WR), Forrest Lamp (OG), Dan Feeney (OG), Russel Okung (OT)
On paper, these acquisitions look great. They addressed the need at offensive line and picked up a receiver with a lot of potential. In typical Chargers form, injury already caught up to both Mike Williams and Forrest Lamp, their first and second picks in the draft. It looks as if both will be out for the season before it even began. Dan Feeney was a nice selection in the 3rd round, but his impact might no be immediate. On the depth chart, he is not yet starting. Russel Okung hasn’t been good for the past few seasons, so I’m not sure he is the answer at tackle.
Major Losses: Danny Woodhead (RB), DJ Fluker (OG), King Dunlap (OT)
The losses of Fluker and Dunlap are good losses seeing as they haven’t been playing well for the Chargers. Hopefully that means the Chargers have faith in the guys who played behind them. The loss of Danny Woodhead will be felt though. He tore his ACL last season, which removed the dynamic threat out of the backfield. Melvin Gordon will have to improve in the passing game as a result of this, which is very possible. Nonetheless, with Woodhead out of the picture, opposing defenses now have one less thing to worry about coming out of the backfield.
2017 Schedule Predictions
Despite sustaining key injuries, will the Chargers be able to win big in LA?
Week 1: @Denver Broncos: L (0-1)
Rivers struggles against Denver’s pass rush. This forces him to make risky throws, resulting in a couple of picks during primetime.
Week 2: Home vs. Miami Dolphins: W (1-1)
Miami travels to LA and struggles. The high-powered offense of LA is too much for Miami’s secondary.
Week 3: Home vs. Kansas City Chiefs: L (1-2)
Despite hosting Kansas City, the Chargers lose the game. In the same scenario as Denver, the offensive line can’t sustain their blocks against a heavy pass rush.
Week 4: Home vs. Philadelphia Eagles: L (1-3)
Yet again, the pass rush gets to Phillip Rivers. Rivers has no time to make anything happen against the Eagles. Three games now lost as a result of pass rush.
Week 5: @New York Giants: L (1-4)
The Giants are on a roll in 2017, and that continues against the Chargers. Overall, the Chargers are outmatched.
Week 6: @Oakland Raiders: L (1-5)
LA continues to struggle. They aren’t necessarily playing bad football, but are playing very good teams early on.
Week 7: Home vs. Denver Broncos: W (2-5)
The losing streak comes to an end at home vs. Denver. Melvin Gordon has a good game against Denver, and LA’s pass rush overwhelms.
Week 8: @New England Patriots: L (2-6)
Everyone expects the loss here, and that is what happens. Pats win and it isn’t that close.
Week 9: Bye
Week 10: @Jacksonville Jaguars: W (3-6)
Casey Heyward makes Bortles pay after the bye week. Chargers come out looking refreshed and win in a good fashion.
Week 11: Home vs. Buffalo Bills: W (4-6)
The Bills aren’t able to stop Rivers in an explosive game. Allen has a big game and crushes the secondary.
Week 12: @Dallas Cowboys: L (4-7)
The Dallas Cowboys are the better team and have home field advantage. Game is closer than expected though.
Week 13: Home vs. Cleveland Browns: W (5-7)
The Browns are getting better, but not fast enough. Chargers get the easy win at home.
Week 14: Home vs. Washington Redskins: W (6-7)
In an overtime game, LA holds out and wins. Rivers has a big game against Washington and their secondary.
Week 15: @Kansas City Chiefs: L (6-8)
The Chiefs need this win at home, and they take it at the Chargers. Rivers makes a few too many mistakes against the Chiefs secondary.
Week 16: @New York Jets: W (7-8)
The Jets continue their horrendous run. Chargers win in a blowout.
Week 17: Home vs. Oakland Raiders: L (7-9)
The season is already over for the Chargers, resulting in a loss. Oakland needed this game.
A Glimmer of Hope… Next Year.
As I predicted up above, I think the Chargers will go 7-9, or at least somewhere close to that. As I said above, the Chargers are not a bad team at all. In fact, they have a solid roster when comparing them to other teams. The difference is, those other teams aren’t playing in the AFC West, and in general, don’t have a schedule as grueling as the Chargers. While many fans will be disappointed with this result, it is an improvement. It’s hard for a team that was 5-11 last year to magically improve to 11-5 or 10-6, especially in a tough division. The good news is that the Chargers will improve, barring those pesky, Charger injuries of course. I also think that the young talent on this team will give the fan base a reason to be excited. Joey Bosa is set to improve this year, making his game more well-rounded. Melvin Gordon will show the world that he can be an explosive three round back. With more help from the offensive line, he could be really special. At the end of the season, the legendary Antonio Gates will retire in my opinion, but his young apprentice, Hunter Henry, will be ready for the job. Henry’s production is bound to steadily go up every year. I think with the right pieces added to the offensive line and a few parts on defense, the Chargers could make a good run in 2018.
Phillip Rivers: 4,250 yards/30 touchdowns/17 ints
Melvin Gordon: 1,100 rushing yards/10 touchdowns/50 receptions/500 yards/3 touchdowns
Keenan Allen: 80 receptions/900 yards/6 touchdowns
Tyrell Williams: 55 receptions/750 yards/5 touchdowns
Hunter Henry: 50 receptions/550 yards/8 touchdowns