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Fine, I’m Buying in on a Los Angeles Chargers Playoff Run

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John Gennaro can see the Chargers going deep into the playoffs despite their currently 5-6 record. Can you?

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Fine, I’ll say it. I believe in the Los Angeles Chargers this season. Here’s why:

December Football

Back when the San Diego Chargers were going to the playoffs and winning the division annually (or at least it seemed that way), “December football” became a staple of the team following the 2007 and 2008 season.

The Chargers would notoriously dig themselves into a hole early, start winning enough games in November to get interesting, and then ride that hot streak through an undefeated December and into the playoffs.

Let’s look back at the team’s record before, and during, the month of December, in those two seasons:

2007: 6-5 before Dec, 5-0 in Dec (Division winner)
2008: 4-8 before Dec, 4-0 in Dec (Division winner)

You can even see some signs of it in 2013, when the team entered December with a 5-6 record before finishing the season 9-7 and in the playoffs.

Even when the team was winning 12+ games a year, they were regularly winning 4+ games after the month of November.

Point being, the Chargers with Philip Rivers under center have always been the type of team that gets better as the season goes on instead of one that gets worse. That’s one of the reasons why I am all-in on the 2017 Los Angeles Chargers, who might be defined as “the third best team in the conference” heading into the 2017 NFL Playoffs.

The Schedule

A lot can change, and has changed, with how we think of the Chargers’ late-game schedule since the start of the season. However, as of right now, this looks pretty weak:

With a strong offense alone, the Chargers should be able to outscore all of those teams. The dominant defense is a nice little cherry on top, and the Chargers’ solid record of health this season is a big reason why they’re getting better while those other teams are getting worse.

The Coach, the Captain and the Star

I’m not sure how many of you follow the NBA and I really don’t care, you’ll get this story anyway.

Tim Duncan, a sure-fire Hall of Fame player and the star of a multiple-championship winning San Antonio Spurs team for about 20 years, had a conversation with his coach fairly early-on in his career. The two men agreed that Duncan would not get any sort of star treatment. When he screwed up on the first play of practice, he’d get screamed at and chewed out and forced to run sprints just like everybody else.

The point of this agreement was to avoid creating tiers in the locker room. Everybody was going to get treated the same, even the future Hall of Famer. If he is willing to put up with it, and run the springs, why can’t you? Like most of the things you hear about Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, it was a brilliant bit of psychology.

A few weeks ago, I was convinced that Anthony Lynn and the Chargers’ coaching staff had lost Philip Rivers. I was seeing too much, and hearing too many whispers, to think that the relationship could be repaired. Both sides were hurt and both sides were angry with one another.

I’m not saying it was a brilliant piece of psychology by Anthony Lynn (maybe it was, or maybe he fell into it), but I do believe that Lynn took a hard stance to treat every man in the locker room the same and that was different from what Rivers had been used to from previous coaching staffs. Now that the team is winning, and the locker room is coming together, it seems that both sides are understanding the benefits of that strategy.

Now that he is being criticized as if he’s just “one of the guys”, I think Rivers is actually doing a better job of being a leader than ever before. Or, rather, giving up a little bit of whatever clout or power he may have had over guys like Mike McCoy or Norv Turner has allowed Anthony Lynn to take the role as the actual team’s leader. Instead of Rivers having to play the role of player and coach, he can simply play quarterback.

The AFC

It’s awful. The only two teams that have looked like Super Bowl contenders for the majority of the season have been the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots. The rest of the conference is butt.

The Ravens, Jaguars, and Chiefs are all currently slotted to be headed to the playoffs and none of them have a decent QB. The Titans are the other team and I have no idea who they are from week to week.

There is plenty of reason to believe the Chargers can catch those teams and even more reason to believe that they could beat those teams in the playoffs. From there, anything can happen.