The first Chargers game of the 2021 season — and the Bradon Staley era — is now less than 24 hours away.
It’s almost hard to believe, but we’re here.
Unsurprisingly, the guys and I had plenty to say about today’s game for this week’s predictions roundtable.
I hope you have some time to kill. Enjoy!
Michael Peterson: Unfortunately, the first matchup of the Brandon Staley era will be far from a cake walk. The Washington Football Team is coming off a divisional crown a year ago — albeit with a 7-9 record — and will only be one year more experienced. A defensive line full of first-round picks, a dual-threat back on the rise, and one of the best young receivers in the league are just a few reasons to not take this team lightly.
However, the Chargers are dealing with a lot of “new” this season. They’ve got a new head coach, four new offensive lineman, a new tight end, and two new systems that each side of the ball are still in the midsts of mastering. No one got the chance to see the starters during the preseason which means no one has any idea how this team actually looks outside of their own practice structure.
Despite all of the unknowns, there is no lack of hype.
I think this game will be close. Closer than we all would probably like, if we’re being honest. But the bonafide superstars on the Chargers will be the difference in this one as both Joey Bosa and Derwin James feast on an inconsistent quarterback and a middling offensive line. If the newly revamped offensive line is who they should be, that defensive line won’t look so scary. Expect some short passing concepts as Herbert attempts to mitigate the pass rush (not unlike Tom Brady in that 2019 playoff game).
I hate to say it, but I believe this game comes down to a field goal. My gut says 27-24 Chargers. The Staley regime is rung in with a victory.
Matthew Stanley: This one is kind of hard to predict. On Offense, the Chargers have 4 new starters on the OL, a new WR 3, and a new starting TE. And that doesn’t even mention the new offense those players are learning that have been put together by a new offensive coordinator and new head coach. However, on paper those new starters are all upgrades (outside of maybe TE which is closer to an even trade), and the offense is still running through the 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert. Id expect a slow start, as the vast majority of the starters didn’t play more than a handful of snaps or at all in the preseason.
On Defense, again, the Chargers are going to be playing a new defensive scheme, a scheme that is very complicated and revolutionary, they’re starting a (very talented) rookie at CB2, and 2 important starters (Derwin James and Drue Tranquill) are returning from injuries that cost them their whole season last year.
Combine all of the that with the fact that they’re playing on the East Coast with the fact that Austin Ekeler and Bryan Bulaga aren’t 100%, and there’s a lot of legitimate reasons to be somewhat pessimistic.
But ya know what, “damn the torpedoes!” I think the Chargers win this game. The offense should be able to move the ball despite a talented Washington Football Team defense. On Defense, the Chargers get a little help with WFT putting Curtis Samuel on the IR today and Antonio Gibson possibly still not being 100%. Ryan Fitzmagic is always a threat, but the Chargers pass rushers will be facing a rookie in Sam Cosmi and Charles Leno Jr who is 29 and entering his 8th year in the NFL (though made a massive leap in performance last year by PFF grading, jumping from the 87th tackle in 2019 to the 28th in 2020 for the Chicago Bears).
With all that considered, I have the Chargers winning this one 27 - 20, based mostly on my hopes and dreams after reading all the in depth pieces on the new coaching staff and Justin Herbert this offseason.
Garrett Sisti: With WFT missing their newly acquired slot receiver Curtis Samuel, the Redskins will try to lean on the run game at first but I think the Chargers will jump to an early lead and Washington is gonna have to air out. While I think the Chargers get out in front early, I also believe that WFT defense will put the clamps down late making it a close game down the stretch. Austin Ekeler WILL play on Sunday and get 2 TDs (1 through the air and 1 on the ground) and on the other side, Terry McLaurin will get 20 targets and eclipse 100 yards receiving. The game will come down to the wire with the Chargers defense picking off Ryan Fitzpatrick for the win. Head Coach Brandon Staley gets his first victory 20-17.