The Chargers missed the playoffs by a field goal last season at the hands of their division rival Las Vegas Raiders, and Chargers nation was heartbroken by it. After starting off the year 4-1 and leading the stacked AFC West division, the Chargers struggled to be consistent the rest of the way only winning five of their next 12 games to finish with a 9-8 record. Despite the disappointment among fans who were excited about the Chargers’ hot start, there were many positives to take away from the 2021 NFL football season
Justin Herbert yet again lived up to expectations throwing for 5,014 yards (ranked 2nd in the NFL) and 38 touchdowns (ranked 3rd), all while having a QBR of 65.6 (ranked 3rd). Herbert is still just 24 years old and is going into his 3rd season with more expectations than ever before having the 2nd best odds to win the NFL MVP according to many sportsbooks and being top 5 in odds at every single book.
If you ask me I think Justin Herbert should be tied with Josh Allen as the co-favorites to win MVP. Both quarterbacks had remarkable years and have shown consistency in improving every year they have been in the league.
Austin Ekeler is also coming off of an excellent campaign that saw him play 16 games for only the second time in his career. Ekeler’s health, as is every year, is the key to success for the Chargers as the dynamic back’s ability to dominate both the run and the receiving game dramatically raises the ceiling of this team.
Ekeler finished last season with 12 rushing TD’s and 8 receiving TDs (20 total) and over 910 yards rushing and 640 yards receiving I’m expecting a very similar season from Ekeler who seems to take pride in what he does as a versatile back and will do whatever it takes to play as many games as he can.
Another bright spot from last season’s Chargers team was the evolution and breakout of Mike Williams. Everyone knew Keenan Allen was as consistent as they come at the WR position, but not many people expected Williams to become the red zone threat (9 touchdowns) he became. Also Herbert’s favorite long-ball target, Williams garnered 1,146 receiving yards and averaged over 15 yards per reception.
Allen on the other hand continued to be a reception monster (106 receptions, 7th in NFL) and put up his usual 1,100+ yards (finished the season with 1,138) However, I am not as concerned as other people are regarding Allen’s lack of red zone targets last season considering Mike Williams’ rise as an elite receiver.
Allen finished the year with 6 touchdowns but was never going to replicate his 9 touchdowns in 14 games from the 2020 NFL season. In fact, Allen has pulled in 6 touchdowns in four out of the past five seasons so another 6 touchdowns year should be expected from him.
Rookie Joshua Palmer showed glimpses of becoming the next great Chargers receiver last season finishing with 353 receiving yards and 4 TDs on just 33 receptions. Obviously, both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are WR1 and WR2 of this team, but in such a high-powered offense Palmer should see his usage rise even more in his second season as the undisputed WR3. Not to mention the addition of Gerald Everett (478 yards and 4 TD’s for the Seahawks last season) is one of the more underrated signings in the NFL this offseason.
And we can’t forget about the stellar rookie season of LT Rashawn Slater, who was named a Pro-Bowler and is already one of the most dominant left tackles in football. The Chargers’ offensive line of Slater, Zion Johnson, Corey Linsley, Trey Pimpkins, and Matt Feiler is one of the better units in football and will undoubtedly do a good job protecting Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler.
Overall, the Chargers ranked 4th in total yards per game, 3rd in overall yards, 2nd in passing yards per game, and 5th in total points put up in the NFL last season. Despite Ekeler’s stellar season, the Chargers ranked 21st rushing yards per game at 107.9 and that will need to improve to become the AFC’s most dominant offensive team.
It remains to be seen if Williams can replicate his breakout season, but with a tandem of Mike Williams and Keenan Allen at the WR position, to go along with Austin Ekeler at RB and Justin Herbert at QB, this Chargers team has the making of a championship level offense, even if their run game needs to improve. They can put up points and pass with anyone and with the improvements of Joshua Palmer and Gerald Everett, it should only open the field more for the run game.
We know that the Chargers will have an elite offense, but the team spent a lot of money on defense this off-season. Khalil Mack has dealt with his fair share of injuries but now joins Joey Bosa to solidify one of the elite edge-rushing duos in the NFL.
J.C. Jackson is a lockdown corner and will bolster the secondary alongside a more experienced Asante Samuel Jr. and a healthy Derwin James Jr. Last season, the Chargers ranked 23rd in yards given up, 12th in passing yards given up, and 30th in rushing yards given up per game per Pro Football Reference.
Signing Khalil Mack will undoubtedly make the run defense better than 30th and adding J.C. Jackson to an already really good passing defense will take this team to the next level. Similar to the Rams’ defense last year, this defense has a lot of stardom and big names but still has some holes to fill.
The Chargers will have some work to do in rounding out the defense, but their ceiling remains one of the highest in the NFL. There is no telling what this defense can accomplish next season but I am predicting it will finish in the top 10 overall with a dominant passing defense and a much-improved run defense.
With a projected top 10 defense and top 3 offense, the Chargers are one of the most balanced teams in the NFL heading into next season. They also have the superstar difference makers needed to win a Super Bowl. There is a reason why so many experts are not only picking the Chargers to win the AFC West but also to get to the Super Bowl; other than the Bills, the Chargers have the most talented roster in the NFL, and Brandon Staley and the Chargers know it.
Reaching these lofty expectations won’t be easy though as the Chargers now play in the toughest division in football. Even without Tyreek Hill the Chiefs still have Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Andy Reid, the Raiders were already a 10-win team and added the best receiver in football in Davante Adams, and the Broncos added Pro-Bowler Russell Wilson at QB.
Nonetheless, it seems like the Chargers are tired of missing the playoffs as they have reiterated the chip on their shoulder mentality that they have taken on following the heartbreaking loss by a field goal to the Raiders in the season finale. Even in the midst of three other juggernauts in their division, I expect Justin Herbert to take another leap and lead the Chargers to a 12-win season and the division title.
I also expect Brandon Staley’s gambles by going for it on fourth down to actually work more often this season. There is a lot to look forward to for this Chargers team and don’t be surprised if they turn out to be better than the Los Angeles Rams this season. Below you will find my game-by-game predictions for the Los Angeles Chargers this season.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
This will be a fun one and should go down to the wire. After a dominant performance in week 1 against the Raiders defense, the Chargers’ offense will keep rolling and put up 42 points on the Cheifs horrid defense. Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce will connect for 2 touchdowns and the Chiefs will score a lot of points, but the difference in this game will be stops and the Chargers’ defense is more capable of getting them.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Chiefs 42-35
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Los Angeles Chargers
This game won’t be as easy as one would think. Jacksonville is gonna be way better this season with Trevor Lawrence having some experience, his college teammate Travis Etienne Jr. coming back strong, and simply having better options to throw to in Christian Kirk and Evan Engram. The Jaguars will keep this one close enough as the Chargers for whatever reason sometimes play down to the competition.
Not considered a big game, the Chargers will be on their high horse with two big victories in a row. As a result, the Jaguars will jump out to a 21-7 lead at halftime as Trevor Lawrence will have 170 yards passing and 2 touchdowns and James Robinson will even rush for a touchdown. The Chargers will then get motivated at halftime and tie the game at 21-21 to start the 4th quarter then finish the Jaguars off with two Herbert long balls to Mike Williams.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Jaguars 31-21
Los Angeles Chargers @ Houston Texans
Let’s not sugarcoat this: the Texans are the worst team in the NFL and the Chargers will capitalize on that. I think that this will be Keenan Allen’s breakout game of the season as he will catch 13 passes for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. Herbert will throw 3 touchdowns in total and Austin Ekeler will rush for 2 touchdowns as the Chargers will cruise to a 4-0 record.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Texans 38-14
Los Angeles Chargers @ Cleveland Browns
Deshaun Watson won’t be playing in this game and despite the Browns having a dominant defense and a good run game, Jacoby Brissett cannot get the job done against a dominant team like the Chargers. Nick Chubb will go off in this game and Austin Ekeler will struggle against one of the better run defenses. The Browns will keep it close because of their defense, but I think Justin Herbert still has an okay game with 250 yards passing and 2 touchdown passes as he will drive the Chargers downfield for a field goal to win.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Browns 21-17
Denver Broncos @ Los Angeles Chargers
At this point, the Chargers are 5-0 and the Broncos being a division rival are going to be coming for their head. Russell Wilson will have a masterclass in this one and Javonte Williams will have 2 touchdowns and the Broncos will get out to a 28-14 lead in this game. The Broncos defense is still very good and will limit Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ offense in the second half to maintain the lead and come out to a victory.
Prediction: Broncos defeat Chargers 31-24
Week 7: Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Chargers
This one will be an easy victory for the Chargers as the Seahawks are the second worst team in the NFL behind the Texans this season. Geno Smith will throw one touchdown to D.K. Metcalf and Kenneth Walker III and Rashad Penny will combine for over 100 rush yards, but the Chargers defense will limit them in the red zone. Justin Herbert will have one of his best games all season against an atrocious defense and throw for 5 touchdowns and 380 passing yards. Josh Palmer will catch 2 of those TD’s and Everett will get into the mix against his former team and catch a TD as well. The Chargers win big.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Seahawks 45-14
Week 8: Bye Week
The Chargers enter the bye week with a 6-1 record atop the AFC West
Los Angeles Chargers @ Atlanta Falcons
The Chargers will score all over the Falcons in this game, but don’t be surprised if it takes them a while to get going. After the bye week, the Chargers will struggle to get back into the rhythm they were in before the rest week and only score 10 points in the first half. After being up 10-7 at halftime Justin Herbert and Austin Ekeler will wake up and Mike Williams will pull in a touchdown along with Austin Ekeler. Herbert will even rush for a touchdown for a huge second half. The Chargers’ defense will intercept Marcus Mariota 3 times in this game.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Falcons 31-10
Los Angeles Chargers @ San Francisco 49ers
This will be one of the toughest games all season for the Chargers as San Francisco has one of the most dominant defenses in the NFL and is by far one of the best-coached teams. They’ll be ready for this game and may catch the Chargers off guard with their intensity and toughness.
Trey Lance, Deebo Samuel, and Elijah Mitchell will run all over the Chargers in this game and the 49ers will be able to take a lot of time off the clock and get the ball away from Justin Herbert. The Chargers will be able to score a second-half touchdown but won’t have enough time to defeat the 49ers and their high-powered run game and stifling defense. The 49ers hold onto this win.
Prediction: 49ers defeat Chargers 24-14
Kansas City Cheifs @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Chiefs will want revenge in this one and Patrick Mahomes won’t be denied. Despite being at home and keeping this game close, the Chargers’ defense won’t be able to contain a motivated Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs team that is trying to stay in the playoff picture. I am expecting a much more disciplined effort on both ends of the football for the Chiefs as they’ll beat the Chargers by a touchdown in Los Angeles.
Prediction: Chiefs defeat Chargers 35-28
Los Angeles Chargers @ Arizona Cardinals
After losing two games in a row and falling to 7-3, the Chargers are gonna treat this like a must-win game and do whatever it takes to win. DeAndre Hopkins will be back at this point and the Cardinals will still have a lot to prove as they play in a tough division. Nonetheless, J.C. Jackson will pick Kyler Murray off once and the Chargers’ defense will limit the Cardinals to only 3 total touchdowns in this game. Justin Herbert will connect with Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen for touchdowns in this one and Ekeler will also rush for a touchdown or two. The Chargers will win a close one in the desert.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Cardinals 28-21
Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders will be the ones mad after a week 1 loss and they’ll be in the midst of a playoff race. I expect Derek Carr and Davante Adams to make adjustments in this game and torch the Chargers’ defense for 2 combined touchdowns. Josh Jacobs will also have a big game scoring 1 TD and Darren Waller will pull in a touchdown as well. Herbert and the Chargers will keep it close but not close enough as the Raiders will win by a touchdown and split the season series.
Prediction: Raiders defeat Chargers 31-24
Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Dolphins will be a good matchup for the Chargers but they have a much weaker QB which is where I think they’ll falter. Tua Tagovailoa will throw an interception and fumble the football and Justin Herbert will throw 2-3 touchdowns and won’t throw any interceptions in this game. Turnovers will be the difference as the Chargers will win by 10 points.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Dolphins 24-14
Tennesee Titans @ Los Angeles Chargers
This will be another tough matchup for the now 9-4 LA Chargers as the Titans have a very good defense and arguably the best running back in football in Derrick Henry. Henry will have a great game rushing for over 100 yards and scoring 1-2 touchdowns, but Austin Ekeler will have a pair of touchdowns as well (one receiving and one rushing) and Justin Herbert will throw a couple of crucial long balls to Mike Williams and Josh Palmer in the process. I expect the Titans to keep this close, but I don’t trust Ryan Tannehill to limit his turnovers so the Chargers will win.
Chargers defeat Titans 28-17
Los Angeles Chargers @ Indianapolis Colts
At 10-4 the Chargers are just a couple of wins away from safely clinching a playoff berth despite being in a tough division. The Colts will come into this game from the outside looking in as they will be just out of the wild card race and desperately need to pick up a win. Matt Ryan will have two turnovers in this game, 1 interception by Asante Samuel Jr. and one fumble recovered by Khalil Mack. Justin Herbert will protect the football and despite having a rough time getting Ekeler going in the offense, will throw for 2 touchdowns and rush for one as well. The Chargers will win by 10 points.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Colts 24-14
Now with an 11-4 record going up against the defending Super Bowl Champs Los Angeles Rams in a crosstown matchup, the Chargers will have their work cut out for them. The NFC West will likely still be up for grabs in this game and the Rams will desperately need a win to outpace the 49ers and Cardinals record-wise. Matthew Stafford will throw 1 touchdown to Cooper Kupp and the Rams will rush for 2 touchdowns as well. Justin Herbert will throw 2+ touchdowns and put the Chargers in a good position in this game, but a costly interception from Herbert will give the Rams momentum and they won’t look back.
The Chargers just need one win to clinch a playoff berth and this isn’t a divisional matchup anyways as the big game will be the following week against the Broncos. I think the Rams’ intensity will be just that much higher and the Chargers will lose by a touchdown as a result since the Rams will just want it more.
Prediction: Rams defeat Chargers 28-21
Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver Broncos
At this point, the Chargers will be 11-5 and they’ll own the tiebreaker over the Raiders and with a win will also eliminate both the Cheifs and Broncos from winning the division as well. I think the Chargers will be motivated to be in charge of their own destiny this time around and win the division. They’ll also be furious about their lack of intensity costing them their home game against the Broncos. Expect this to be a neck and neck game but Justin Herbert will have his “MVP” type game against a great defense torching the Broncos for 4 touchdowns and winning the Chargers the division for the first time in 13 years.
Prediction: Chargers defeat Broncos 34-21 and win the AFC West
With this win, the Chargers also become the #2 seed in the AFC behind the Buffalo Bills (13-4 record) giving them home-field advantage until at least the AFC Championship game if they get there. As you can see I have high hopes for the Chargers and think they’ll win the division. It won’t be easy, but they’ll look dominant for most of the season and finally win the AFC West as they’ll finish with a 12-5 record.