Every NFL season brings with it outliers who far exceed expectations or disappoint miserably. With the futures odds set for the 2021 NFL season, we examine that broad range of possibilities for the Los Angeles Chargers.
When Last We Met
The Los Angeles Chargers didn’t have themselves a terrible 2020 season, but it definitely could have gone a lot better. Despite having tons of talent across their roster, they stumbled to a 1-4 record heading into their bye week. Originally, many of the sportsbook lines were based on how the team would perform with Tyrod Taylor under center. He was injured early in the season, rookie Justin Herbert was thrown into the fire, thrived, and he never gave the job back.
The NFL betting lines for this team shifted early on in the season as originally, oddsmakers pegged them as a team that was going to be defense-first and play ball control on offense through the running game. Herbert gave the offense a huge shot but it was the defense, coaching, and running game that let them down.
Herbert gave them momentum and the Chargers did win their last four games, but it was too little too late, with just a 7-9 record on the year. While this wasn’t the year that the Chargers were hoping for, those betting online know that they did find their future franchise quarterback in Herbert. With star safety Derwin James returning after a season-long injury (this year), there are high hopes.
To Miss the Playoffs (-150)
Injuries and a failure to adjust their game plan in the second half of games were the main reasons for them missing the playoffs last year. That cost Anthony Lynn his job as head coach. If these two factors continue to plague the franchise, the Chargers will miss the playoffs again. Injuries are obviously a part of the game, but the team must stay healthy throughout the majority of the regular season so that they don’t fall behind early on in the year.
The organization also felt that it was time to bring in a new head coach, a defensive-minded coach for the first time in over a decade. If he isn’t able to adjust from a coordinator to a full-time head coach, it could cause some problems in close games. However, the NFL playoff odds right now suggest that he’s an upgrade over Lynn.
Lastly, protecting Herbert would be their biggest concern moving forward. He is a fantastic talent, but this team won’t be going anywhere this year if he is being constantly thrown around in the pocket with very little time to unleash his deep ball.
To Make the Playoffs (+120)
The odds aren’t in their favor to make the playoffs, but they have a roster that is on the verge of competing. Their defense did lose Melvin Ingram in free agency, but they still have Joey Bosa and James, assuming they are both going to be healthy by Week 1. Flipping over to their offense, they have Herbert leading the charge alongside Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams, and newly signed Jared Cook. This offense is going to be lethal and it will take a similar year for Herbert and improved offensive line play to get this team over the hump. They also can’t afford to choke away close games like they have the past couple of seasons, which is where the coaching change is bound to come into play. If the group improves in late-game situations, they could definitely find themselves in a very tight AFC race for the postseason. Most NFL predictions right now suggest this team could compete for a Wild Card spot.
To Win the AFC West (+600)
Admittedly, cashing in on the NFL division odds to win the AFC West feels like a longshot. It isn’t that the Chargers aren’t talented enough to claim the division title this season; it is just that they share a division with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have dominated the AFC for the past couple of seasons now behind their generational talent at the quarterback position, Patrick Mahomes. He is partnered up with a rebuilt offensive line, fantastic young running back, and Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Not to mention the team’s young and exciting defense that was making massive strides in the right direction towards the end of last season before their collapse in the Super Bowl. This team is heavily favored to win the title and for good reason.
The Las Vegas Raiders may find themselves in the mix as well. They’ll be led by Derek Carr once again despite some rumors that the team would be looking to replace him. Carr has a stellar tight end in Darren Waller but their offense gets a little bit thin all around outside of that. Their defense showed a lot of improvement compared to a couple of seasons ago, but they just aren’t there yet. This may finally be the breaking point for the Raiders as a rebuild looms over their heads.
Finally, we have the Denver Broncos. Denver was heavily rumored to trade for one of Deshaun Watson or Aaron Rodgers throughout the offseason, but it doesn’t seem like either will be coming to fruition – at least not this season. This leaves Denver with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock at the quarterback position, average players who will get the job done but won’t put them in a position to win the division. Their defense has a lot of young talent along with some great wideouts on offense, but they just need more time to put the pieces all together.
The Chargers could arguably be better than both the Raiders and Broncos already, so getting over that hump and battling it out with the Chiefs is going to be the real battle. The problem for them is that the Chiefs are terrific in the regular season while the Chargers get off to slow starts. If they want any chance at winning the title, starting the year off hot is a must.
To Win the AFC (+1700)
We’ve already talked about the Chiefs, one of the most likely teams standing in the Chargers’ way if they were to make it into the postseason. However, there are a few other teams that Los Angeles would have to battle through in order to win the conference. The first would be the Buffalo Bills. They were able to put together a fantastic year on the back of their young quarterback Josh Allen, who took a massive leap in his overall development. Much of that change was because the team paired him up with Stefon Diggs over the offseason, as the two instantly clicked on the football field. Their offense is bound to be explosive once again and could even be improved from last year. Buffalo also has an above-average defense to pair up with their explosive offense which makes them one of the biggest threats to opposing AFC teams.
Another team to look out for in this race is the Baltimore Ravens. They have one of the most electric quarterbacks in the game right now with Lamar Jackson. His mobility allows the team to do basically whatever they feel like offensively. Baltimore also added some more offensive weapons to try and unleash some of Jackson’s throwing ability that we have caught glimpses of already. On the other hand, their defense is filled with playmakers. They have Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Patrick Queen just to name a few.
Finally, the Cleveland Browns could end up giving the Chargers a hard time. They were close to upsetting the Chiefs in the postseason last year but fell just short. Now they are running it back, but this time should have Odell Beckham Jr. on the field again alongside the newly signed Jadeveon Clowney. Those two guys are going to tremendously help them on each side of the football and could give the Chargers fits on both ends.
Los Angeles has an incredibly tough road just to make it out of their division let alone cash on the NFL conference odds. It will take a lot of improvement overall to get to the level in order to win the AFC.
To Win the Super Bowl (+3300)
The Super Bowl Odds aren’t kind to the Chargers. If by some chance this roster is able to overcome all expectations set for them and battle it out through the AFC and into the big game, they are going to have an even stiffer test there.
To start, we could be seeing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make it back to the Super Bowl after winning it last season. After all, the team is returning with all 22 starters from a year ago, so they definitely have the talent in order to win it all again. Not to mention the fact that their offense consists of Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Chargers don’t match up well with this group whatsoever, as their defense just isn’t enough to contain this high-powered offense.
Next, you have the Los Angeles Rams, who are among the Super Bowl betting favorites. They have an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball and will be a difficult matchup for anybody in this league. On defense, they happen to have both Jalen Ramsey and Aaron Donald, two guys that could very well be competing for the Defensive Player of the Year award yet again. Then flipping it over to the offense they have Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods to pair up with their newly acquired quarterback Mathew Stafford. Stafford is a veteran quarterback with a lot more experience than Jared Goff was giving them, which could take this team to another level. Assuming the Chargers make the postseason and match up with the Rams, Stafford would be far more prepared for the game than Herbert would be especially if he is going to have Donald in his face throughout the entire game. Los Angeles will have to fix that offensive line first in order to even have a chance to knock off either the Rams or Buccaneers.