After being on the wrong end of one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history last season and with some serious salary cap pain on the horizon, it’s Super Bowl or bust for the LA Chargers in 2023/24.
The Los Angeles Chargers ended a four-year postseason drought in 2022/23, winning four of their last five games in the regular season to earn a Wild Card berth.
But what should have been a positive for the franchise took a dark, unexpected turn. They raced to a 27-0 lead against the Jacksonville Jaguars in that playoff game, then scored three points in the second half to lose, 31-30, completing the third-largest blown lead in NFL playoff history.
The loss has piled pressure on head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco, who are in danger of wasting star QB Justin Herbert on his rookie deal if they can’t make amends for last season and go on a deep playoff run this time around.
Click here to read all NFL Season Outlooks for the 2023/24 season.
|What||2023/24 NFL Season|
|When||September 8th, 2023 - February 11th, 2024|
|Chargers Odds||To Win Division +340, To Win Conference +1200, To Win SBLVIII +2500|
2nd in the AFC West (10-7). Lost in the AFC Wild Card round.
For a franchise that has only ever reached one Super Bowl and never lifted the Lombardi Trophy, the Chargers have to think big this season.
The team can’t afford to keep a stacked roster intact beyond this year, and the Bolts could be on the verge of a rebuild with the likes of Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, Keenan Allen, Austin Ekeler, Mike Williams and more potentially moving on in the near future.
With Herbert also having one year left on his rookie contract, they’ll need to make room for his massive salary, and that means striking while all the pieces are still in play in 2023/24.
Staley kept his job despite the Jaguars debacle, but changes have been made elsewhere with Derrick Ansley promoted to defensive coordinator and Kellen Moore arriving from the Cowboys to take over the offense.
It’s hoped Moore’s arrival will unlock the full potential of Herbert, who has been underutilized since an outstanding rookie season.
Staying healthy is also a must after losing so many starters to injury last year, with depth in certain areas an ongoing concern after a quiet free agency.
They tried to address some needs via the draft, bringing in help at wide receiver and on the defensive line, and they’ll need those rookies to hit the ground running.
But even in a competitive AFC, it doesn’t appear that the Chargers are too far away from challenging the more established Super Bowl favorites in the conference.
First and foremost though, they have to make the postseason. Qualifying for the postseason is the minimum expected of the Bolts, who are -105 to reach the playoffs.
The Chargers have a favourable home-away split this season with nine games taking place at SoFi Stadium and eight on the road.
Their full schedule will be revealed on Thursday, but the Bolts already know their opponents.
Alongside the usual home and away games against the AFC West, LA will also face all four teams from the AFC East and NFC North.
Rounding out the schedule are games against the Dallas Cowboys (H), Baltimore Ravens (H) and Tennessee Titans (A).
Brandon Staley will be taking charge of the Bolts for a third season in 2023/24 having posted back-to-back winning campaigns in his first two years at the helm.
Staley swapped LA franchises to become the Chargers head coach in 2021 having caught the Bolts’ attention when defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.
Before then, the 40-year-old had worked as a linebackers coach at both Denver and Chicago after working his way up the coaching ladder at some small schools, making the leap to the NFL in 2017.
Cincinnati Bengals Season Outlook
Chicago Bears Season Outlook
LB Eric Kendricks (Minnesota Vikings)
LG Matt Feiler (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
CB Bryce Callahan
S Nasir Adderley (retired)
WR DeAndre Carter (Las Vegas Raiders)
LB Drue Tranquill (Kansas City Chiefs)
DL Breiden Fehoko (Pittsburgh Steelers)
DE Kyle van Noy
|Offensive MVP||Justin Herbert|
|Defensive MVP||Derwin James|
|Top rookie||Quentin Johnson|
|Breakout star||Isiah Spiller|
Herbert could be a very different quarterback under Moore’s offensive scheme to the one we’ve seen the last three years and it’s expected the 25-year-old will be asked to utilise his scrambling ability and cannon of an arm more often.
Herbert threw just 25 touchdowns last year, the fewest of his career, while only rushing for 147 yards, and both those numbers should improve this season.
Herbert and defensive ace Derwin James were amongst the Chargers to pick up injuries last year, but when James was on the field, the aggressive safety was everywhere.
On an expensively assembled defence, James is the Chargers’ difference-maker on that side of the ball.
Hoping to be difference-makers on offence this year are Quentin Johnson and Isiah Spiller.
Johnson, the TCU wide receiver drafted 21st overall, has a wide frame and the speed to make big plays.
He was widely regarded as the most NFL-ready receiver coming into the draft and is a much-needed new weapon for Herbert.
Spiller has been forced to wait for his opportunity behind Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelly in the running-back depth chart but his skill set is one Moore could get plenty out of.
The shifty running-back should see more action with Ekeler seeking to leave and the Bolts will hope he takes his chance.
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