Some of you might read that title and scoff, thinking of the Rams, Chiefs, and Saints. Well the Chargers actually just beat the Chiefs despite missing their starting running back (Melvin Gordon), and despite losing their best receiver (Keenan Allen) early on in the game. The Saints have looked vulnerable lately as they have put up just 12 points or less in two of their past three games, including a loss to a Cowboys team that just got shut out by the Colts, and the Saints just barely beat the riding-a-five-game-losing-streak and 6-8 Carolina Panthers by three points on Monday Night Football.
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) December 14, 2018
The Rams look vulnerable as well as their obvious lack of depth and star-weighted roster has been underperforming lately. The Rams lost to the Bears in a game where they failed to score more than six points, and they just suffered an embarrassing loss to an Eagles team that has looked abysmal for much of the season. The loss included plays where Aqib Talib and the secondary just flat-blew coverages.
You cannot argue that THIS is what a Super Bowl caliber secondary is supposed to look like:
Here’s how the play starts, with Talib and the rest LA’s corners about ten yards off the line of scrimmage, and the safety isn’t even in the frame. No way they could get burned deep right?
Despite being lined up ten yards off the ball and having a deep safety, the Rams, a professional football team, just let not one, but two receivers wide fucking open. ALL THREE DEEP DEFENDERS DIDN’T DO THEIR JOB. The ball was so massively underthrown that Alshon Jeffery had to come to a complete stop and actually run backwards to make the catch, but the Rams defenders were so far behind both Jeffery and Agholor that it didn’t even matter. That isn’t a Super-Bowl caliber team. If this late in the season, it is possible for all three deep defenders in your cover three scheme to play badly enough where it’s almost like they don’t exist, then you do not have a good enough defense to win the Super Bowl. Mark my words, the Rams can’t win a Super Bowl this year.
Meanwhile, the Chargers are playing like the most complete and injury-invincible team in all of football, and they might just have the most talented roster in all of football too. This 11-3 Chargers team played the first half of their season without Joey Bosa. Together, Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Brandon Mebane form one of the scariest defensive lines in the league. The Chargers also have a stacked secondary as Casey Hayward, Jahleel Addae, and Michael Davis have all been playing at an elite level.
Not to mention, they have great depth in their secondary as well as backup cornerbacks Trevor Williams and Desmond King have enough talent to start on most other NFL teams. When you add in a talented and versatile Swiss-army knife that is Derwin James (he has played every defensive position except for MLB and DT for the Chargers this year), you get one of the best defenses in the league, and it shows on the scoreboard.
Their 298 points allowed ranks #1 in their division and fourth-best in the AFC. By the way, Derwin James—AS A FUCKING SAFETY—was given a grade of 21.1 for his pass-rush productivity by Pro Football Focus which ranks second best in the NFL among players with at least 25 rushes.
The Chargers offense has plenty of talent and depth to go around as well. Tight end Hunter Henry is slated to return soon and the 24-year-old has 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns during his first two seasons. Meanwhile, the Chargers still somehow have Antonio Gates to pick up the slack. Gates (who is 38) has 312 receiving yards and two TDs in 2018, and became the oldest TE in NFL history to break 300 yards receiving in a season.
The Chargers receiving corps is a perfect mix of lanky speedsters in Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin, and well-rounded do-it-all talents in Keenan Allen and former seventh overall pick Mike Williams. At this point, Keenan Allen is a pretty well-established commodity as he has several 1,000 yard seasons and currently boasts a career-best 72.7 percent catch rate. But his teammate, Mike Williams is the one who has really stepped into his own this year.
Williams was widely labeled a bust after his rookie season where he only recorded 11 catches for 95 yards in ten games, but has quickly turned his career around as he already has 592 yards and nine touchdowns on just 37 catches so far this season, including a clutch game against the Chiefs where he had 7 catches, two touchdowns (one of which tied the game with 4 seconds left), a rushing touchdown, and caught the game-winning two point conversion after Keenan Allen left the game with a hip injury.
OH MY MIKE WILLIAMS 😳
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 25, 2018
The 6’4’’, 220-pound Mike Williams has plenty of explosiveness and talent, and his team is starting to take notice. Philip Rivers said after the Chiefs game, “Nobody in the locker room doubted why he was picked seventh, but if anybody on the outside had any questions, he’s answered those this season”.
The Chargers have an elite running back as well, as Wisconsin product Melvin Gordon is one of the NFL’s best running backs despite missing the past three games with an MCL sprain. This season, Gordon has 802 rushing yards and nine TDs in addition to catching 44 balls for 453 more yards and another 4 TDs. Gordon’s performance has earned him an 87.6 position grade from Pro Football Focus which ranks third amongst running backs.
The glue that holds this all together? Quarterback Philip Rivers who is having nothing short of an MVP caliber season. He has thrown for 3,951 which ranks seventh, 31 TDs which ranks third, has thrown 59 passes of 20+ yards which also ranks third, has thrown 10 passes of 40+ yards which ranks fifth, and currently boasts a 112.4 QB rating which also ranks fifth in the NFL.
Rivers has been remarkably consistent as well as he has thrown for over 200 yards with at least two TDs in every game this year with the exception of week 14 when he threw for 220 yards and a TD with no interceptions against the Bengals.
As a team with an elite QB, elite WRs, an elite RB, an elite D-line, and an elite secondary that boasts their best record (11-3) since 2009, the rest of the NFL might be watching the Chargers and Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates hoist their first Lombardi Trophy in February.