The Chargers Are In the Spotlight, But Are They Ready?

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The Chargers Are In the Spotlight, But Are They Ready?


The last time the Los Angeles Chargers were on a football field, they watched Riley Patterson end their season with a 36-yard field goal with three seconds left on the clock. Patterson’s kick was the icing on the cake of a second half in which the Jacksonville Jaguars out-scored the Chargers 24-3. Los Angeles saw a 27-point lead disintegrate in Jacksonville that night.

Los Angeles responded by firing former offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi in the days following the epic playoff meltdown.

Five months later, we’ve learned that the Chargers will have the spotlight on them as they search for their first playoff win since 2018 and their first AFC West title since 2009.

Last week’s NFL schedule release featured six primetime or stand-alone games for the Chargers. Here’s the list:

  • Week 6 (Monday Night Football) vs. Dallas
  • Week 8 (Sunday Night Football) vs. Chicago
  • Week 9 (Monday Night Football) @ New York Jets
  • Week 12 (Sunday Night Football) vs. Baltimore
  • Week 15 (Thursday Night Football) @ Las Vegas
  • Week 16 (Saturday — Peacock) vs. Buffalo

Justin Herbert and the Chargers will be on Monday Night Football twice and Sunday Night Football once in four weeks (Weeks 6-9), with home games against the Cowboys and Bears and a road game against Aaron Rodgers and the Jets. There are no easy ones in that stretch.

The Chargers will play Lamar Jackson and the Ravens on Sunday Night Football in Week 12. They will also visit the Raiders in an AFC West showdown on Thursday Night Football in Week 15. Finally, they’ll have a significant game against the Buffalo Bills streamed exclusively on Saturday night on Peacock in Week 16.

The spotlight is firmly on the Chargers, but are they ready?

Los Angeles replaced Joe Lombardi with former Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore this offseason. So, there will be a new system and new voice calling plays for Justin Herbert this season. There’s zero doubt that Moore is an upgrade over Lombardi. Still, year one in a new system always has the potential to come with a learning curve that could cause the team to start slower than anticipated.

The Chargers’ early season schedule provides them with a longer runway to get things cooking. After a tough Week 1 matchup with the Dolphins, the Chargers visit the Titans and Vikings. Both teams are in the “what are they doing?” bucket for me this season. Los Angeles then hosts Jimmy Garoppolo and the Raiders in Week 4 before heading into the bye week.

However, the Chargers better have things figured out — and ideally a 3-1 record — when they return from the bye week with a Week 6 matchup against the Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Things get real from that point on for the Chargers.

The Cowboys, Chiefs, Bears, Jets, and Lions are the first five opponents for the Chargers out of the bye week. That group of teams had a .542 winning percentage in 2022. Without the Bears, the other four opponents posted a .627 winning percentage. The Bears are improved, and the Jets have Aaron Rodgers and a top-five defense, so consider that. This portion of the schedule could be a 1-4 stretch for the Chargers. So, even if the Chargers went 3-1 before the bye week, they would be 4-5 heading into Week 11.

Things don’t get much easier from there for the Chargers

Los Angeles ends their season with two of three against the Bills and Chiefs, with a trip to Mile High sandwiched in between. If the Chargers aren’t in a good position heading into Week 16, they’ll be fighting for their playoff lives down the stretch.

The Chargers had an excellent NFL Draft. Quentin Johnston profiles as a great addition to the wide receivers room for Justin Herbert. Tuli Tuipulotu is an explosive player who could have gone earlier than No. 54. He gives the Chargers some excellent depth behind Khalil Mack this season.

The draft was strong, and Los Angeles lost little via free agency. However, Johnston and Tuipulotu might be insignificant day-one contributors and join already solid position groups in Los Angeles. In addition, the Chargers could still use help on the interior defensive line, the linebacker group has been a mess for years, and Austin Ekeler’s future is murky at best.

As much as I want to see the Chargers be a legitimate contender this season, this feels like a 9-8 season and a potential Wild Card berth followed by an early exit in the playoffs.

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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.