The attention grabber in the AFC West is still the Kansas City Chiefs. However, this division may not be so one-sided this year. Although Kansas City will likely win it again, this team could face stiff competition from two rivals. The Los Angeles Chargers are one of the teams that could surprise in 2021.
This year, they have a new head coach in Brandon Staley. He was the defensive coordinator for the Rams last year and the hope is he will bring new energy to the Chargers defense. The other new addition for the team is offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi.
One of the reasons the Chargers will have a winning season is the progression of former Oregon Ducks standout quarterback Justin Herbert. Now, there is always a chance for a “sophomore slump”. However, Herbert should be able to put that fear to rest very quickly. Herbert should have a lot of time to make reads against defenses because the Chargers drafted offensive tackle Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern University. Running back, Austin Ekeler is looking to make a bigger impact as a runner and a pass-catcher. The Chargers finished ninth in total offense in 2020. Herbert threw for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns. He started 15 of 16 games.
We’ve seen examples of how injuries at quarterback can drastically alter a season as the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys found out last season. Granted, those teams didn’t get off to hot starts overall. However, both offenses weren’t the same after losing Joe Burrow and Dak Prescott respectively. The Chargers were determined to ensure that would not happen to Herbert.
It’s also worth noting that the Chargers finished 10th overall in total defense last season. This team is well balanced and should not be underestimated in 2021. Defensive end Joey Bosa and Safety Derwin James will be keys for the success of the defense once again.
The Chargers will finish 2nd in the AFC West with a final record of 12-5 (17-game regular season). The Chargers will lose both games to the Chiefs, but it will be by narrow margins.