Throughout the offseason, the folks over at Bleacher Report have consistently updated their win-loss predictions on a consistent basis to make sure it’s as up-to-date as possible prior to the start of the regular season. On Wednesday, they updated their predictions once more with a week of training camp now under the league’s belt.
This time around, B/R has the Chargers not only going 11-6 on the season, but that record would also land them at the top of the division. According to their predictions, the entire AFC West will finish with a record above .500. The Chiefs and Broncos are both predicted to go 10-7 while the Raiders will finish last just behind them with a record of 9-8.
So why does NFL analyst Ian Wharton believe the Chargers have what it takes to take down the Chiefs and win the division crown in 2022? In a word: Defense.
“The Los Angeles Chargers’ defense faltered down the stretch of their playoff push last season. They allowed 34, 41 and 35 points in three of their final four games.”
“That spurred a huge spending spree this offseason.”
“With veteran edge-rusher Khalil Mack and cornerback J.C. Jackson entering the fold, the Chargers have a more balanced distribution of talent on their defense than last season. They won’t need to solely rely on superstars Joey Bosa or Derwin James to create turnovers or big plays. The upside of this unit is now as good as any in the league.”
Of course we cannot forget the likes of defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson. Each of them are a bonafide upgrade along the interior, especially when it comes to stopping the run. These two, plus the aforementioned Mack and Jackson, erase a handful of weak spots from last year’s underwhelming unit.
But it’s not just the defense that’s fueling the hype train. When Justin Herbert is your franchise quarterback, the offense is likely going to be the main source of propulsion.
“Quarterback Justin Herbert will be under the microscope as he enters his third season,” says Wharton. “He’s one of the most physically gifted passers in the league, but he must maximize a surrounding cast that is headlined with impressive athletes. Running back Austin Ekeler and receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams return as one of the most productive trios in the NFL.”
The expectation for this offense is that it won’t just have to be the trio of Ek, Slay, and Mike. Second-year wideout Josh Palmer has looked excellent so far in camp and the versatility of new tight end Gerald Everett should be on full display under this offensive coaching staff.
On Wednesday, Everett mentioned that he’s expected to receive carries off of jet sweep plays, something he never got the chance to do with the Rams but he finally received those types of touches with the Seahawks a year ago.
Overall, the majority of the AFC West got better this offseason. The Broncos added Russell Wilson to an underrated roster while the Raiders paired All-Pro Davante Adams with his college quarterback in Derek Carr. The Chiefs are still the Chiefs, but losing Tyreek Hill is surely going to have a negative effect on that offense.
This is 100 percent the best and toughest division in football this season. I don’t think anyone can argue against that. If the Chargers are truly prepared to take the next step into the upper-echelon of NFL franchises, they’ll have to earn it every step of the way.
“The other AFC West teams will push the Chargers, but this is the year where the Bolts emerge as the kings of the toughest division in the NFL. They have the right mixture of ascending youth and veterans in prime years for everything to come together.”