The Los Angeles Chargers had a disappointing and heartbreaking 2021 season.
After getting off to a 4-1 start, the team suffered some rough losses, none more frustrating than their agonizing Week 18 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders by the slimmest of margins that cost them a playoff spot.
After a crazy couple of weeks to open the NFL’s free agency period, the Chargers and their fans are full of hope and optimism for the upcoming season.
Not only does a return to the playoffs look to be in the cards, but the Chargers also seem to have a great shot of finishing first in the AFC West for the first time since 2009.
Why could the Chargers be the favorite to do just that?
3. They Have One Of The Best Quarterbacks, Who Is Also Still Developing
Herbert immediately became a revelation, and this past year, in his second season, he made the Pro Bowl after posting 5,014 yards and 38 touchdowns.
He was second in passes completed, total passing yards and passing yards per game while finishing third in passing touchdowns.
Herbert can still refine some things and get better.
He threw 15 interceptions in 2021, which was tied for third-most in the NFL, and his three pick-sixes were tied for second-highest.
In addition, he seems like a gamer who will raise his game when needed.
Justin Herbert: The most clutch quarterback in the game this season.
Would have been 6 if the Chargers don’t get the Jared Cook TD called back against the Cowboys. https://t.co/ovZfxc0Sgl
— Daniel Wade (@dantalkssports) November 22, 2021
Having a signal-caller like that can single-handedly win a team at least a couple of games that it would’ve otherwise lost with merely a “good” QB.
2. The Chargers’ Defense Should Be Much-Improved
Defense was the glaring weakness for L.A. this past season.
It ranked just 29th in points and rushing touchdowns allowed and 30th in rushing yards allowed.
But that should all change this coming season.
The Chargers traded for pass rusher Khalil Mack earlier this month, a move that should allow them to do a much better job of pressuring opposing QBs.
Mack’s production has declined a bit over the last few seasons, but he is still a formidable presence up front.
Paired with Pro Bowler Joey Bosa, who had 10.5 sacks in 2021, Mack should help make life difficult for opponents in 2022.
The Bolts also signed J.C. Jackson, considered by some to be the best cornerback on the free agent market.
He will also help QBs on the other side work harder to move the chains and put points on the board.
Since entering the league, no CB has allowed a lower passer rating than J.C. Jackson 🔒 pic.twitter.com/Oi5UQI27Gr
— PFF (@PFF) March 20, 2022
1. The Rest Of The Division Doesn’t Look As Scary
With star wide receiver Tyreek Hill getting traded from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Miami Dolphins, the Chargers’ biggest obstacle to winning the AFC West has been significantly weakened.
The Chiefs may still make the playoffs, but they likely won’t be world-beaters anymore.
The Raiders look formidable on paper after dealing for Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, but many feel that Herbert is a better QB than Derek Carr (although Carr is a strong signal-caller in his own right).
Russell Wilson will play for the Denver Broncos this coming season, but he doesn’t have the greatest crop of receivers on his side.
There appears to be an opening for the Chargers to become the kingpins of the division and possibly even contend for a spot in Super Bowl LVII.NEXT: Does Khalil Mack Make The Chargers A Real Contender?