As always, I’m a bit late getting a post done for SB Nation’s theme week. This week specifically, the site-wide theme was “What if?” This theme meant being able to dive into any hypothetical situation that your heart and mind could create. It could be re-drafts of any NFL draft from years past, it could be flipping the switch on a pivotal moment in your team’s history, or simply fabricating your own reality as long as it wasn’t too crazy. It’s something that a lot of people at the publication were able to have fun with and it’s high-time I threw my hat in the ring.
Now, I didn’t get too imaginative here. Instead of changing some wildly inconspicuous moment in time to benefit the team in a million different ways a la the butterfly effect, I simply looked back at the last great season orchestrated by the Bolts and thought about how close it was to being even better.
So for this scenario I asked, “What if the Chargers received the 1-seed during the 2018 playoffs?”
In order for Chargers to have earned the first-round bye, they needed to have beaten the Baltimore Ravens during their regular-season tilt in Costa Mesa. Were the Bolts to have come away victorious in that match-up, and then went on to beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead like they did, their final record of 13-3 would have given them the 1-seed and the bye. The Chiefs would have replaced the Chargers in the 5-seed and then they’d have been forced to go through the Ravens and Patriots en route to making the AFC Championship game.
Like KC, L.A. would only have needed to deal with the winners of the wild-card match-up between the 11-5 Houston Texans and the 10-6 Indianapolis Colts in order to reach the conference championship. With the Chargers playing the type of football that they were at the time, of course the chances were good for them to still win either of the match-ups.
Obviously, the biggest issue here is that the Chargers would have probably ended up playing the Patriots again, but this time it would’ve been one round later. However, there still would have been the off-chance that either the Ravens or the Chiefs would have pulled off the upset and met the Chargers in the AFCCG. At that point, the Chargers would be staring at two opponents they had already defeated during the regular season.
Of course, in this scenario, I’m deciding that the Chargers would have beaten either team once more and propelled themselves to the the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance in team history.
Finally, the moment we all would have sold our souls for: The L.A. Super Bowl.
If everything fell exactly the same on the NFC side of the bracket, the Chargers would have faced the Rams in a star-studded match-up for the ages. High-flying offenses and smothering defenses. It would have been glorious. It also would likely not have been that 13-3 snooze-fest that actually happened.
Most yards per play in 2018:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 5, 2018
1. Chiefs: 7.03
2. Chargers: 6.75
3. Rams: 6.71
4. Buccaneers: 6.54
5. Saints: 6.20
Fewest yards per play:
28. Redskins: 5.20
29. Jaguars: 5.16
30. Jets: 4.92
31. Bills: 4.55
32. Cardinals: 4.38
But would the Chargers have been able to pull off the upset? After all, the Rams did a number on the Bolts during a 35-23 shellacking in week three. Would the Chargers have learned enough since their first match-up to overcome what went wrong the first time? To be honest, yeah. There would have been a chance, for sure.
If you recall, the Chargers played the Rams fairly close but a few key moments certainly set them back in the Coliseum. One of those moments was a blocked punt with Drew Kaser standing in Chargers’ end zone that was recovered for a touchdown and right before that was the interception by Derwin James that he accidentally took out to the one-yard line. Oh yeah, and you can’t forget the missed extra point by Caleb Sturgis following the team’s first touchdown of the day. That obviously does a number when you’re trying to keep up with a dynamic offense. All of those things happened in the span of 13 minutes. Instead of the game potentially being an even 14-14 at half, they were stuck staring at a 21-6 hole.
Oh man, I almost forgot about that touchdown to Cooper Kupp that somehow managed to happen with a Chargers cornerback literally draped around his feet like a cobra. My goodness, there were a lot of bad breaks.
Part of the Chargers’ success was their luck during the 2018 season. They were the healthiest they’ve been in years and they kept making the pivotal plays needed in their close games to walk away victorious. Keeping that in mind, I would have put plenty of my own money down on the Bolts playing the Rams extremely close in this hypothetical situation.
At this point, my “what if?” scenario is slowly running out of juice. In the most-ideal situation, the Chargers win their first Super Bowl in franchise history. They play a hard-fought contest and come out on top 27-24 on a last-second field goal by the Money Badger, himself.
Chargers win. The world goes nuts. The city of Los Angeles finally holds the team in the light that they deserve. What a crazy reality that would be.
If any of you want to take this “what if?” scenario any further, please do so in the comments. If the team had won Super Bowl 53, what would they have done in the draft? How would it have affected the team in 2019? Would they have kept Rivers, even with a less-than-stellar season? Let’s keep it rolling.