The Los Angeles Chargers (7-2) are off to their best start since 2006. Do they deserve more recognition?
The Chargers are arguably the second-best team in the AFC.
Their 7-2 record makes that statement accurate. As of right now, only the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) have a better record in the AFC.
But it still feels like the Chargers, who have won six in row, are being overlooked. It can’t be about the numbers, because they rank towards the top in almost every category.
The Chargers have scored 20 or more points in each of their last six games. They currently rank 10th in the league in average points per game.
They also rank eighth in total offense. Philip RIvers is playing at an MVP level. He ranks third in quarterback rating (115.4) behind only Drew Brees (123.8) and Patrick Mahomes (117.4). He has completed 67.3 percent of his passes and thrown for 2,459 yards and 21 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
Melvin Gordon is also having a career year, as he’s tied for the fifth-most rushing yards (672) and is averaging a season-best 5.4 yards per carry. He has scored a total of 11 touchdowns (seven rushing, four receiving) and fumbled just once. He’s already on pace to shatter his single-season receiving total with 361 yards through eight games, too.
If that’s not enough, the team has one of the league’s best wide receiver trios and best tandems at running back.
Meanwhile, the defense has given up less than 20 points in five of the last six. They curreny rank 14th in total defense and are giving up the eighth-fewest points per game (20.7) in the league overall. Even without Joey Bosa, the defense has racked up 26 sacks, tied for ninth-most in the league, including recording 19 sacks during their six-game winning streak. They are also tied for seventh with 10 interceptions. The team has a +6 turnover differential.
So it has to be more about the teams they have faced than the Chargers themselves. The combined record of the teams they have beaten is 18-37-1. The only team they beat that has a record above .500 is the Tennessee Titans (5-4). The Chargers’ only two losses of the season came against the two best teams in the league in the Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams.
But I don’t think it’s completely fair to judge the Chargers completely on who they faced, especially when the Chargers look good in their wins. Let’s see who they’ve gone against during their six-game winning streak.
The 49ers: This is where the streak began. Despite their 2-7 record, this is a 49ers team that lost its starting quarterback and running back but yet has been competetive in all but one game (a 39-10 loss to the Rams). Matt Breida came into this game tied for the most rushing yards, but the Chargers shut him down. However, the Bolts squeaked by with a 29-27 win thanks to Derwin James coming up big in the final three minutes of the game, hitting C.J. Beathard and forcing an interception that fell right into the arms of Isaac Rochell. It’s worth noting that kicker Caleb Sturgis missed two extra points that game.
The Raiders: Oakland is arguably the worst team in the league, and the Chargers beat them handily both times. Moving along.
The Browns: Cleveland, who was winless last season, is 3-6-1 halfway through the year and recently beat a hot Atlanta Falcons team that was on a three-game winning streak. They had one of the top-rated defenses going into their game against the Chargers, and the latter blew them out 38-14.
The Titans: Good ‘ol London games. The Chargers almost let this one slip away after leading the entire game (and that’s with the Titans winning the game of possession by a large margin). The Titans’ offense started to click after really struggling prior to this game. Instead of tying the game and bringing it to overtime, the Titans went for two. They had two attempts after the Chargers got called for holding on the first attempt, but Adrian Phillips deflected Marcus Mariota’s pass to give the Chargers a victory.
The Seahawks: After a slow start, a healthy Seahawks team gained momentum, winning four of five before playing the Chargers at home. Oh, just so you know, the last AFC team to beat the Seahawks in Seattle was the Cinicinnati Bengals in 2011. That’s right, the Seahawks had won 13 straight at CenturyLink Field vs. AFC teams (12 with Russell Wilson at quarterback).
That was until the Chargers snapped Seattle’s streak. That game came down to the wire, though, with Jahleel Addae just getting a finger on the ball in the end zone on the final play of the game for another Chargers victory. The Chargers were put in that sitiuation after Sturgis missed two extra points (that’s not counting a missed 42-yard field).
And here’s something to keep in mind: The Chargers have been succeeding on the road. They haven’t played at home since Week 5 (Oct. 7).
It’s a common cliche, but any team can win on any given Sunday, so the Chargers shouldn’t be discredited for their wins. The Titans, who the Chargers beat, just beat up on a New England Patriots team that was 7-2 prior to Week 10.
The Browns tied the Steelers, who are considered one of the top teams in the AFC, in their first matchup of the season. Seattle, who the Chargers dominated for most of the game, just gave the 9-1 Rams a handful this past weekend. The Minnesota Vikings, a top NFC contender, got killed by the lowly Buffalo Bills, who the Chargers killed.
The Chargers took care of teams they were expected to beat, which is what good teams do. They’ll get more of a test when they face the Chiefs, Steelers, Bengals and Baltimore Ravens in December, but the Chargers shouldn’t be afraid of any team.
Because this is a different Chargers team. This team is relatively healthy. This team has a ton of young talent. More importantly, this team is mentally— and physically— prepared to make a Super Bowl run.