Everybody’s going nuts about the Rams (and for good reason), but lest we forget, the Los Angeles Chargers are a top-five NFL team right now. While their cross-town rivals might be getting the majority of the spotlight, here’s why you shouldn’t sleep on the Chargers.
Why so little hype?
It’s tough for the Chargers to make friends in LA with the Rams looking like the darling of the league this season. But that lack of a solid fan base doesn’t seem to bother the NFL, and now we know why: The Chargers are apparently locked into a 20-year lease at the new stadium that Stan Kroenke, the owner of the Rams, is building for the two teams to share.
The new Inglewood stadium likely won’t open until 2020, so that means the Chargers are stuck in Los Angeles until 2040. (We can’t even contemplate dates like that right now.) So it looks they’ll have plenty of time to recruit those fans who haven’t been showing up to their games and filling up stadiums since their sad departure from San Diego. The Chargers couldn’t even sell out the season opener at the StubHub Center where they play now, and it only has a capacity of 30,000.
Despite the Rams seemingly cornering the market for NFL fans in Los Angeles, there are still plenty of reasons to switch sides and pull for the Chargers. They’ve got the players and they’re winning games right now. We’ll break down a few of the reasons you should pay attention to the Chargers.
Melvin Gordon III
In the past, he might have once been referred to as “a poor man’s Todd Gurley,” but after a few games this season, Melvin Gordon has proven his worth as a running back. He’s third in rushing, just behind Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, and his numbers speak for themselves. He’s on pace to hit 1,243 rushing yards and 744 receiving with 24 touchdowns – stats similar to those won Todd Gurley the Offensive Player of the Year award last year. He’s also scored 33 touchdowns since his rookie season in 2015 – the only player with more is, you guessed it, Todd Gurley.
Coming out of Wisconsin and now in his fourth year with the NFL, Gordon is a great receiver and a tackle-breaking runner. In Week 5 against the Browns, he scored three rushing touchdowns, a personal best. Against the Broncos, he turned a ridiculous 28 carries into 208 yards and two touchdowns. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season, so unsurprisingly, when teams go up against the Chargers, literally one of the first things they think is, “We have to contain and stop Gordon.”
The Chargers also have an elite quarterback in Philip Rivers. According to sports experts, this could finally be Rivers’s season. He’s 36 years old and in his fifteenth season, but he is shining like never before, possibly due to the support of his running backs Gordon and Austin Ekeler… and the other three Chargers on pace for over 550 receiving yards.
Rivers has an average of 8.8 yards per attempt (the third-highest average in the league), 15 touchdowns, 1,720 passing yards, and only three interceptions this season. After Week 6, he’s ranked #5 in the NFL Quarterback Index. And that’s behind the obvious stars like Mahomes, Brees, Goff, and Rodgers. Whether you’ve been paying attention or not, Rivers is definitely in the MVP conversation this season.
He has the ability to get passes off quickly – just 2.5 seconds on average – and do it before he’s hit. And he can still connect passes when he gets moved off his spot. With a passer rating of 124, he’s been practically unstoppable this season.
The Rest of the Team is Solid Too
Rivers has seen even more success this particular year in part because his offensive line has been amped up by the addition of Russell Okung and Mike Pouncey.
And what about those other guys racking up receiving yards? Wide receivers Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Tyrell Williams are a force to be reckoned with, providing Rivers with several great options for targets on the field.
Their defense doesn’t suck either. Rookie safety Derwin James may also be in contention for one of the NFL’s top acknowledgments. By taking tight ends out of play and achieving the top passer rating allowed at 14.6, he’s a frontrunner for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
But the bad news is that the Chargers have only played in two post-season games this decade, a stat that leaves even those fans left in San Diego a little discouraged. But maybe, just maybe, this is the year for Rivers.
The Chargers went for their fourth straight win against the Titans at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday. (WIth a 9:30AM kickoff, what a way to get your football Sunday started, huh?!) The Titans have struggled to protect Marcus Mariota in recent weeks. (Did you see them against the Ravens?) and most bettors took the Chargers.
They led most of the way, but the Titans never quit. It looked like the game was headed into overtime after the Titans scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but they went for two and couldn’t quite get it. Keenan Allen recovered the onside kick to finish things off. So the Chargers got their fifth straight game across the pond to become 5-2, looking like a real playoff team.
But will they continue to succeed throughout the season?