The NFL preseason is underway which means we finally get the first look at our favorite teams. Now we can get answers to some of the offseason’s biggest questions.
How do the rookies look? Who’s hurt and who is back from injury?
Yes, it’s time to talk football. The season is ramping up and so are fans, as we all hope this is the year our team wins it all.
So, who will win the Super Bowl?
Many experts believe the Los Angeles Chargers are the likely dark horse team. Continue reading to see why so many like the Chargers, and why some cast doubts on the team.
Who Will Win the Super Bowl?
Most experts and the oddsmakers list the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Los Angeles Rams as the overall favorites.
And while the Los Angeles Chargers are not the odds-on Super Bowl favorite, they are a popular sleeper pick.
Why do the experts love the Chargers? For starters, the team is coming off a successful 12-4 season. The Chiefs, who were also 12-4, won the AFC West due to tiebreakers.
Unlike the NBA and NHL, seeding in the NFL is not determined by a team’s record. As such, the Chargers were forced to travel to Baltimore and New England for their playoff games, even though those teams had inferior win-loss records.
Another reason analysts are high on the Chargers is because they are bringing back a high-performing veteran quarterback in Philip Rivers. Like Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, Rivers is a coach on the field who quickly identifies defenses and makes adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
Head Coach Anthony Lynn returns for his third year at the helm. After an 0-4 start in 2017, Lynn has led the team to 21 wins in 28 regular-season games.
Of course, there’s plenty to be excited about with the Chargers roster, starting with the offense.
Offense Built for the Playoffs
The Chargers have exceptional talent at the skill positions.
Rivers is a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback who has started every game since September 11, 2006. He figures to jump to second in the record books for consecutive starts by Week 4, at which point he will only trail Brett Favre. The fiery quarterback is getting better with age, as he is coming off arguably his best season as a pro.
Behind Rivers is standout running back Melvin Gordon whose numbers improve every year. Gordon has a knack for finding the end zone and he is equally adept running the ball or catching it. Currently, Gordon is holding out due to a contract dispute and it remains to be seen when and if he suits up to compete.
Nevertheless, the Chargers enjoy depth at the running back position, as the team went 4-0 last year in games Gordon missed due to an injury.
Keenan Allen is the team’s top wide receiver, with 97 receptions a year ago. Allen is nearly automatic on third down.
2017 first-round draft pick, Mike Williams had a breakout season last year, tying for sixth in touchdown receptions. Williams figures to be even more involved in the offense in 2019 with the departure of Tyrell Williams.
And finally, the team brings back Hunter Henry at tight end. Henry is a rising star who suffered a torn ACL in training camp in 2018, causing him to miss the entire season. Henry is healthy now and he is one more weapon opposing defenses will have to account for.
With so many offensive weapons, opposing teams will have to pick their poison against the Chargers in 2019.
Defense Stacked with Talent
When you talk about the Chargers defense, you have to start with defensive end Joey Bosa. The young star wreaks havoc on quarterbacks, having set the record for most sacks (19) in a player’s first 20 games.
On the other side of the defensive front is another Pro Bowl defensive end—Melvin Ingram. The veteran is known for his intense work ethic and ability to stay on the field, having played all 16 games in each of the past four seasons.
Bosa missed the first nine games last year and was never completely healthy. If he and Ingram can stay on the field in 2019, opposing quarterbacks need to watch their back—and front—and sides.
The defensive secondary brings back Pro Bowl defensive back Casey Hayward and Desmond King, one of the league’s best nickel backs.
Last season, the Chargers found a star in rookie Derwin James, a high-flying safety from Florida State. In his first season, James earned All-Pro honors as a top safety, although the energetic James played no less than five positions in 2018.
Defensive Coordinator, Gus Bradley employed James in unique packages to make up for the loss of Bosa, linebacker Denzel Perryman, and other injured players.
In this year’s NFL Draft, the Chargers spent their first two picks on the defensive side of the ball. In the first round, the team selected Jerry Tillery, the athletic defensive tackle out of Notre Dame who is expected to start right away.
Nasir Adderly, the ball-hawking safety from Deleware is the team’s second-round selection. The Chargers are high on Adderly’s ball skills and sound tackling and he figures to earn significant playing time in 2019.
Special Teams No Longer an Achilles Heel
For several years, the Chargers have been terrible at kicking field goals. Actually, “terrible” is too kind — they sucked at kicking field goals.
The Chargers have lost games, and seasons, due to terrible kickers. To that end, the kicker position has been a revolving door as the team has desperately tried to find a reliable kicker.
Queue Survivor. The search is over. Michael Badgely came on in Week 6 last year and locked down the position, making 15 of 16 field goals. The “Money Badger” proved he can kick under pressure, hitting five of six field goals in the playoffs.
Everything seems to be lining up for the Chargers to go to the Super Bowl. But what say the naysayers?
Health is always a factor when it comes to the Chargers, who regularly rank near the top of the most injured team list.
In response, Lynn regularly gave veterans time off during training camp last year and cut back on practice times. The strategy to protect players and keep them fresh worked as the Chargers suffered fewer injuries in 2018, a trend they hope to repeat in 2019.
Another question mark is depth at the linebacker position. In the playoffs this past January, the Chargers found themselves with a rash of injuries in their linebacker group. Against the Patriots, the unit was forced to play off the ball in coverage, and Tom Brady picked them apart to the tune of a 41-28 Patriots victory.
This year, the team bolsters the linebacker position by adding veteran Thomas Davis, a 13-year veteran who has played his entire career with the Carolina Panthers. Already, Davis is earning rave reviews from teammates and the coaching staff for his leadership on the field and in the locker room.
It’s also disconcerting that the Chargers may be without offensive tackle Russell Okung, who is outstanding as Rivers blind-side protector. Okung is suffering from a pulmonary embolism due to blood clots. The team is unsure if Okung will be ready for Week 1 and have no timetable for his return.
Vegas Odds: What the Oddsmakers Say
Currently, the oddsmakers have the Chargers at 16-1 to win the Super Bowl. That mark is tied for eighth. Not exactly a consensus favorite, but certainly a popular dark horse team.
What Vegas is forgetting is that this is the year of the first-timers. The St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup. Two days later, the Toronto Raptors continued the trend as first time NBA Finals Champions. The NFL is due for a first-time champion and we think the Chargers are the team to do it.
The Bottom Line
Who will win the Super Bowl in 2019? The Chargers are as good a pick as any team.
The Chargers field the perfect mix of Pro Bowl veterans and energetic young stars. If the team can stay healthy, and continue their upward rise under Lynn, there’s no reason why they can’t win it all.
The Chargers are a hot ticket after going 12-4 last year and advancing to the second round of the playoffs. The team has an exciting home lineup against the outstanding competition: the Colts, Texans, Steelers, Packers, Vikings, Denver Broncos, Chiefs, and the Raiders.