Los Angeles Chargers Season Wins Prediction
Los Angeles Chargers
Season Over/Under Win Total: 9.5
The bar is set high for the Los Angeles Chargers compared to recent campaigns. They haven’t eclipsed this year’s season over/under win mark of 9.5 since 2009. Yes, they did pop for nine wins a season ago after a dreadful 0-4 start. But the betting markets appear to be keying in on that raw number of 9 wins. Let’s not forget that of those nine victories, only one came against a playoff team (Buffalo) and six were against squads that finished 6-10 or worse.
Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers was instrumental in the Chargers’ strong finish. He posted a stellar 28-10 TD-to-INT ratio and helped produce the league’s top passing offense. But Rivers’ season was somewhat of an outlier. The turnover prone Rivers threw only 10 interceptions; his lowest mark since 2009 when he was 28 years old and in his prime. Prior to last season, he had a three-year run of 52 picks combined. This also played a big part in the Chargers’ +12 turnover margin. Again, an outlier season after -7, -4 and -5 the three previous years. There are a handful of examples of aging quarterbacks continuing to thrive (see: Tom Brady and Drew Brees) but Rivers had previously been in a fairly steady decline which hints regression is likely in 2018-19. I also have my doubts about a questionable offensive line and running game. Newly acquired center Mike Pouncey and running back Melvin Gordon are vastly overrated. The guard position remains a work in progress with Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney behind in their development. And the loss of tight end Hunter Henry (torn ACL) is a huge blow to the offense, particularly in the red zone.
Personnel-wise, the defense doesn’t have much of any weakness. Joey Bosa, Casey Hayward and Melvin Ingram are obviously high-level plays. And first round draft pick Derwin James has a ton of potential. But in analyzing last year’s group, the production never seemed to line up with the talent. The Chargers ranked dead last in the league at 4.9 yards per carry allowed. They also allowed 147 broken tackles which ranked second-to-last. Poor tackling is a fundamental issue good teams rarely suffer from yet for the Chargers, it’s been commonplace.
On the surface, the Chargers’ schedule appears favorable when using their opponents’ 2017 winning percentage (.480). But a closer look shows it to be far more difficult. Division foes Kansas City, Denver, and Oakland all figure be competitive. And home games for the Chargers aren’t exactly an advantage; one of the lowest among my home field ratings. In fact it’s more accurate (or perhaps generous) to call LA’s first three home games (Kansas City, San Francisco, and Oakland) neutral field environments. Let’s also not forget the 6:30 am PT start for their “home” tilt in London against the Tennessee Titans.
In the end, Rivers’ regression, a more realistic turnover margin, poor defensive fundamentals, and a tougher-than-projected schedule, make the Chargers a prime candidate to fall short of expectations. Bettors should have no difficulty finding a 9.5 to play under the total.