After the blowout loss to the Raiders in Week 15, some analysts couldn’t wait to drop the Chargers all the way down to the 32nd spot in their power rankings, even though their record was far from the worst in the NFL.
This week, another loss dropped the Bolts to 5-10, but their improved play in Giff Smith’s first action as interim head coach was notably improved and that forced many analysts to think twice about keeping them so close to the bottom. That record is still abysmal, but the Chargers showed something this week many thought was missing from their core this season.
Let’s go ahead and take a look at where the Bolts landed this week's power rankings.
Bleacher Report - #27
“The Los Angeles Chargers had nothing to lose in Week 16. There will be no playoffs. Quarterback Justin Herbert is hurt. Head coach Brandon Staley and general manager Tom Telesco have been fired.”
“In fact, interim head coach Giff Smith told reporters after the Chargers lost on a last-second field goal that his entire gameplan was essentially that—play like you have nothing to lose.”
“‘I think we went into this game thinking it was going to be a heavyweight fight, and we wanted to have a chance at the end for a knockout,’ Smith said. ‘We were going to play it a little close to the vest. Get points on the board and give ourself a chance to win, and that’s the way it went. Came up a little bit short.’”
“The Bolts are just playing out the string in what has been a wildly disappointing season. But after that will come a critical offseason. This is a team that was viewed as a playoff contender just a few months ago. The Chargers have no shortage of talent on both sides of the ball. It will be an attractive landing spot for coaching and GM candidates.”
“The Chargers have to hit on those hires and do a good job of filling holes on the roster. This is a team on the edge. They can either be a contender in 2024 or fade into mediocrity.” - BR NFL Staff
NFL.com - #27
“There still can be interesting developments in lost seasons, and the reduced role of Derwin James in Saturday’s tight loss to Buffalo certainly opened my eyes. In essence, he was a nickel corner in the game, taking only a few snaps at safety and playing just 40 of the 52 defensive snaps. James has been an impact player for the Chargers since entering the NFL as a first-round pick in 2018, rarely coming off the field when healthy. But interim coach Giff Smith apparently has a different vision of James’ role down the stretch, which could raise questions about his future with the franchise, seeing how he carries a salary-cap hit just south of $20 million in 2024. Now, Smith probably won’t be the Chargers’ head coach next season, and a new front office is set to take over, so it’s impossible to project future personnel decisions. Even still, I’ll be keeping an eye on James once the new regime settles in.” - Eric Edholm
The Athletic - #28
“There’s one reason the Chargers’ job opening will be the most coveted in the league this offseason, and it’s not the Spanos family’s history of throwing money around. It’s Herbert, who was 11th in the league in passing yards (3,134), 13th in EPA per attempt (.14) and 14th in passer rating (93.2) before a finger injury ended his season after Week 14. The numbers don’t tell Herbert’s story, though. The tape does, and if the right coach lands in Los Angeles, look out.” - Josh Kendall
Sporting News - #29
“The Chargers get credit for balling out with Easton Stick and Giff Smith vs. the Bills, but that heartbreaking game also showed their key issues defensively and offensively, both tied a lot to injuries. They are playing hard to tap better into their talent upside with a new coach in 2024.” - Vinnie Iyer
Pro Football Talk - #29
“Interim coach Giff Smith deserves credit for making chicken salad out of last week’s 63-point disaster.” - Mike Florio
USA Today - #30
“A team that was supposed to wrest the Hollywood spotlight from the Rams will not only be getting a new script in 2024 but is facing huge cast turnover.” - Nate Davis
CBS Sports - #30
“The decision to fire Brandon Staley gave this team some life against the Bills. Now let’s see if it carries over the last two games.” - Pete Prisco