Can the Chargers Make the Playoffs Next Season?

Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

Mike Williams #81 of the Los Angeles Chargers warms up. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

 

The Chargers were a heartthrob in 2020. Capturing the hearts of many, Justin Herbert played exceptionally, finishing with the best numbers ever seen for a rookie quarterback. Despite all of this, Los Angeles didn’t turn out to be very good. The team tantalized us with some big offensive performances, but it lost many close games in excruciating fashion with the defense blowing late leads.

There’s talent up and down this roster. Now, with a new head coach, is it possible the Chargers could make the playoffs in a crowded AFC?

Before looking at the conference as a whole, let’s first do the obvious and examine their position in the division. Is there a chance they can finish as the best team, and secure an automatic bid as one of the AFC’s top four seeds? Well, considering the Kansas City Chiefs finished atop the AFC West at 14-2 last season, and don’t look like they are going anywhere anytime soon, I’m going to say no.

So, that means the Chargers are going to have to play for the wild card. Can they secure 10 wins? Surely that would do the trick. Well, they’re unfortunately going to have to face the Chiefs twice, which will likely result in a pair of losses. Additionally, two against the Raiders, and meetings with AFC North powers Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Baltimore will be very difficult. Right there, you could be looking at five losses. On the bright side, however, the Chargers will have the benefit of playing the horrendous NFC East this year, which could gift them some much-needed victories.

Considering the strength of schedule, the Chargers are going to need prove they’re better than at least two of some aforementioned elite AFC teams. Much of that is going to depend on what the team is able to do over the off-season. Los Angeles has over $34 million in cap space, the ninth-most in the league, and will have the opportunity to sign a plethora of helpful pieces. One of them could end up being Joe Thuney, who has been linked to the Chargers because of their dreadful offensive line. Los Angeles’ line ranked dead last at 32nd in the league last season according to Pro Football Focus, carrying on a trend of poor play at the position. Trai Turner and Brian Bulaga were brought in to shore up the right side of the line, but the pair did anything but.

The Chargers will also have the opportunity to build a contender through the draft. They own the 13th and 47th picks, and the totality of their selections grade out as the 12th-best in the league. Many have them taking an offensive lineman at 13. Los Angeles may also want to address the running back position; while Austin Ekeler is talented, and the team just selected Justin Jackson, L.A. still ranked 30th of 32 teams in yards per carry last year.

Back to the question at hand, though, is this team good enough to make the playoffs? In its current state, I’d have to say no. There is certainly promise surrounding the team with a talented quarterback like Herbert, but there are far too many holes and new coach Brandon Staley is going to have a lot to prove. Los Angeles ranked 18th in scoring offense and 23rd in scoring defense a year ago, signaling there are also issues galore on defense in addition to the ones presented on the offensive line.

The Chargers are likely a year or two away from real contention. It’s realistic to call games against the Bengals, Broncos (2x), Texans, Giants, Patriots and Football Team wins. After that, it gets muddy. The Chargers are going to need to knock off some powerhouses, and it doesn’t seem they’re quite at the level yet to unseat one of last year’s playoff teams. Considering we’re going back to the traditional format of two wild-card teams, it’s likely we’ll see both spots go to AFC North teams, with the seasons all three of the division’s top teams are coming off. Considering the Chargers will have to play those three teams, too, they’re getting the short end of the stick. Perhaps in a season where they don’t have to face this stiff competition, and some of their holes are shored up, Los Angeles can make the playoffs. That’s encouraging! Unfortunately, though, 2021 won’t be the year.

Who Will Be the Next Starting Quarterback for the Colts?

There might not be a better landing spot for one of the many quarterbacks in limbo this off-season than the Indianapolis Colts. Boasting one of the best defenses in football last season, Indy finished 11-5, missing out on the AFC South title on a tiebreaker and heading to the postseason as a wild card. There, Philip Rivers and the offense nearly pulled the upset over Buffalo, who wound up running all the way to the AFC Championship Game.

As you may have heard, or deduced from the first line of this story, Rivers won’t be returning for the 2021-22 season, retiring from the NFL after 17 seasons. With that, the Colts are looking for a new quarterback. There are so many different routes Indy can go here, whether it’s exploring trades, signing a free-agent or drafting one of the many young talents available this spring. Let’s look into four different options for the Colts.

 

Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles warms up. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles warms up. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP

 

Carson Wentz

This one could make the most sense. Wentz is an established pro, and considering he’s coming off a down season, the Eagles are desperate to get him off their hands and the price shouldn’t be super high here. In fact, looking at the haul that the Lions received for taking on Jared Goff’s ugly contract, the Colts might be inclined to take a chance here.

Indianapolis is a natural fit for Wentz’s $34.7 million cap hit in 2021 with the second-most space under the cap at a number north of $78 million. Adding Wentz to an already-strong offense which includes many playmakers at skill positions like Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr. and Nyheim Hines could be lethal, and the draft picks could ensure Indianapolis can continue to add talent without spending much money, with a lot of it being devoted to paying Wentz.

There’s also the fact that Colts head coach Frank Reich was Wentz’s offensive coordinator for two seasons in Philly, and receivers coach Mike Groh was Wentz’s offensive coordinator in 2018 and 2019 when Reich departed. This would be a perfect spot for a reclamation project, and the Colts would have all the incentives in the world to take on Wentz with the picks that surely would be attached.

[Read more...]

Super Bowl LV Recap

Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP

Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP

Well, I don’t think anyone would have expected that.

The Super Bowl LV Came and Went

The Super Bowl ended on Sunday without much noise from the Kansas City Chiefs. It came without the big chunk plays, the suffocating defensive stands, the illustrious comebacks. Hell, it even came without a Chiefs touchdown. Kansas City’s offense, which has looked impossible to stop all season long, was absolutely stymied by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I suppose it should have been expected, considering how effective Todd Bowles’ unit was against the likes of the Packers and Saints, but even against some of the worst offenses in football the Buccaneers have relented just the slightest bit, allowing a touchdown or two.

So, what was the difference between Sunday and the Chiefs’ Week 12 beatdown of the Buccaneers? Well, the most glaring difference was the pressure that Tampa Bay’s defensive line was able to put on, sacking Patrick Mahomes three times and hitting him nine, hitting the over on the Tampa Bay sack prop, compared to two sacks and seven hits in Week 12. That may seem small, but when you consider how sparce sacks and hits can be, that is a big difference, and what didn’t show up in the box score was the number of times Mahomes was hurried. The Chiefs really missed starting left tackle Eric Fisher in this one, who had to miss the game due to injury. It opened the floodgates.

[Read more...]

Super Bowl LV Preview

Chris Godwin #14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is tackled by defenders of the Kansas City Chiefs on November 29, 2020. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP

Chris Godwin #14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is tackled by defenders of the Kansas City Chiefs on November 29, 2020. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP

 

The NFL comes to its thrilling conclusion on Sunday as the Chiefs and Buccaneers square off in Super Bowl 55. In what is already a historic matchup, a matchup between Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady could go down as one of the best we’ve ever seen on the NFL’s biggest stage. With umpteen lines being offered across every single one of the best sportsbooks, it’s going to be challenging to settle on just one.

 

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Monday, February 7, 2021 – 06:30 PM ET at Raymond James Stadium

 

The Basics

Before we get into how both teams match up, here’s a broad overview of what you’ll need to know surrounding the Super Bowl. First off, this will be a historic occasion because this Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay marks the first time that a team has had the advantage of playing the game in its home stadium. And, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a limited crowd on hand, perhaps giving even more of a boost to the host Buccaneers, though the NFL will be flying in plenty of frontline workers for the game who may not have a rooting interest in the game and thus dilute the home field advantage.

Kansas City enters as three-point favorites and -165 on the moneyline, identical to the odds they had in the AFC Championship Game, where they beat the Buffalo Bills. Tampa Bay is in a near-similar spot for a second-straight game as well, checking in as three-point underdogs and +145 on the moneyline after being four-point dogs to Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game.

The over/under is set at a high 56.5 for this one, just a half-point shy of tying the highest total in Super Bowl history which was set four years ago.

 

Defense, Defense, Defense

We don’t think of defense when it comes to the Kansas City Chiefs, yet that’s been the unit that has truly shined the most this postseason. The Browns entered the playoffs with one of the best rushing attacks in football, and Kansas City limited Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to just 101 yards. The next week, they faced the lethal passing attack of the Buffalo Bills, and held Josh Allen in check with 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It wasn’t a bad game, but it certainly wasn’t great, and not nearly up to the standards the Bills had set for themselves.

Defense wasn’t exactly what the Chiefs were known for this season, but it has been a driving force behind their playoff success and created truly impossible circumstances for opponents when you consider how lethal the offense is.

On the other hand, it’s exactly what the Buccaneers are known for. Of course, their offense is pretty good, and the secondary has been suspect at times this year, but Tampa Bay ranks No. 1 across the board in rushing defense and boasts perhaps the best pass rush in the league with Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett and Ndamukong Suh. Most will focus on the matchup between the offenses, but the defensive battle will be what’s worth watching here. There are legitimate stars on both sides of the ball, from those names to Lavonte David, Tyrann Mathieu and Frank Clark.

 

Previous Matchup

Both of these teams met in November, and while the scoreline looks close (a three-point win for Kansas City), it was really not a contest whatsoever. Patrick Mahomes threw for 462 yards and three touchdowns, getting the Chiefs out to a 27-10 lead late in the third quarter before the offense became complacent with running the ball and the defense got tired, allowing the Buccaneers back in to make it a game before the Chiefs ran the clock out with one of their soul-crushing drives.

It’s worth looking at this Week 12 meeting because of how greatly the Buccaneers defense failed at containing Mahomes, and how the Chiefs defense flustered Brady into two interceptions. I’m willing to read into the three quarters which Kansas City dominated the Tampa Bay secondary and discard the lazy fourth quarter as something the Chiefs will shore up this time around. Many will take a look at the Chiefs -3, and that’s for good reason. I’d recommend taking them up to -5.

Chiefs vs. Buccaneers Super Bowl LV Opening Odds Analysis

Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs celebrates. Jamie Squire/Getty Images/AFP

 

Well, that was some Championship Sunday. It appeared we were headed for two blowouts, then perhaps two underdog victories, but in the end, it was two quarterbacks that may go down as the greatest to ever do it who came out on top and booked trips to Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be playing at home in Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl — something the bookmakers have never had to account for — but that didn’t stop the Super Bowl odds released Sunday night from favoring the visiting Kansas City Chiefs by three points across the board. Very similar to the Championship Game for both teams, the Chiefs’ moneyline sits at -165 at the opening, with the Bucs coming in as +143 underdogs at DraftKings Sportsbook. The over/under, meanwhile, was at a very-high 57 points at open, and has already been bet down to 56.

There are a few things that may affect the line, and the outcome of this game — namely injuries. We already know that one of the Chiefs’ best players on offense, tackle Eric Fisher, will miss the Super Bowl with an Achilles injury he suffered on Sunday. On the other side of the ball, the Buccaneers did just get Vita Vea back, but they did not have sensational rookie Antoine Winfield, Jr. against the Packers and saw Jordan Whitehead leave Sunday with a shoulder injury.

The Bucs are going to need all the help they can get in the secondary going against two speedsters in Mecole Hardman and Tyreek Hill, and missing two safeties would be a huge issue. On the other hand, Patrick Mahomes may not be afforded the time needed to let them get open with Fisher out. Tampa Bay touts perhaps the best pass rush in football and Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett will have their pupils fully dilated against a reserve lineman in Martinas Rankin.

Matchup-wise, the Chiefs won’t really be fazed going against the top rushing defense in football, because they only run 38.18% of the time, which ranks 23rd in the NFL. The matchup they’ll pay attention to is in the aforementioned secondary, where the Buccaneers are allowing 249.4 yards per game, good for a spot in the bottom 11 in the league. We already know the prowess the Chiefs have when throwing the football, so a good matchup coupled with some injuries to the Tampa Bay defense could spell trouble.

For the Buccaneers, who rank second in scoring offense, it will be two-pronged attack against a pretty average defense against both the pass and the run. Tom Brady has showcased his ability to find each and every one of his receivers for big catches this postseason, and Leonard Fournette has been a revelation on the ground, seizing control of the backfield and playing some of the best football of his career.

The line of three points makes sense here, as does the high total. Both offenses should be set up for success, and while the Chiefs overall probably have the better offense, the Buccaneers will be afforded the easier matchup. That said, coming off of its performance last week, the Chiefs defense is not to be doubted. I would still make this line closer to five, thinking that even though Fisher will be out Mahomes is still one of the best quarterbacks against the blitz, and Tampa Bay being banged up in the secondary could really hamper them. Mahomes’ ability to avoid the blitz stems from his ability to move out of the pocket, and any concerns over his left big toe will surely be squashed given two weeks to heal.

The total is very high for a Super Bowl, and I’d be inclined to take a look at the under here before it continues moving down. Not only do you have a fantastic defense on one side of the ball, but the Chiefs also have a deceptively slow offense. They rank 13th in total pace, and that slows to 22nd in the second half of games, making them great candidates to hit the under almost every time out. They rank in the bottom 10 in the league in pace when trailing, too, meaning even in a scenario where they need a late comeback they’re not likely to push the total higher. In all likelihood, Kansas City will sit on a fourth-quarter lead and run the entire quarter, winding clock and working hard for under bettors.

It should be an absolute cracker of a game in Tampa Bay, and the fact that it’s so difficult to deliberate over odds makes it a challenging one to bet as well. Early on, I’m still siding with Kansas City, and that position could be further solidified as injury news trickles out for Tampa Bay.