After a disastrous finish to the 2021 season, the Los Angeles Chargers appear poised for contention in 2022. Third-year quarterback Justin Herbert is surrounded with exciting weapons. The Chargers defense added playmakers to bolster the defensive line and secondary. Second-year head coach Brandon Staley has a year under his belt, and hopefully will learn from some of his situational miscues.
While it’s easy to be bullish on the Chargers, their path to the playoffs won’t be easy. The Chargers reside in the loaded AFC West, a division that should be a gauntlet.
Will it be a special year in Los Angeles? Here are four bold predictions for the upcoming season.
Justin Herbert Wins NFL MVP
These are bold predictions, after all. So why not start with a bang? Heck, this might not even be that bold, as Herbert has the fourth-best odds to win MVP at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Herbert proved his legitimacy in 2021, backing up an impressive debut season with an even stronger campaign. In fact, he statistically outperformed Aaron Rodgers, last year’s MVP. Herbert threw for 5,014 yards (second in the league), Rodgers threw for 4,115 (10th in the league). Herbert also threw one more touchdown pass than the reigning league MVP.
The difference? Rodgers led Green Bay to the NFC’s best record, while Herbert watched the postseason from home. Obviously, that isn’t entirely Herbert’s fault. All you need to prove a Herbert doubter wrong is show his fourth quarter performance in the Week 18 loss to Las Vegas.
Herbert’s got the talent. He’s got the weapons. He will have the stats. Now, he just needs to reduce his turnovers (15 interceptions in 2021) and turn all of that into wins. The quarterback who wins the AFC West could be in the driver’s seat for the MVP award. Herbert could very well get it done in year three.
Khalil Mack Leads the NFL in Sacks
At 31 years old, some might think Khalil Mack has lost a step. However, Mack’s six sacks in seven starts last season for a terrible Chicago Bears team would suggest otherwise.
Now, Mack arrives in Los Angeles alongside Joey Bosa. That’s right, one of the best pass rushers in recent memory might play second fiddle to Bosa. Together, the tandem should wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. But the older Mack could benefit most if opponents decide to place more emphasis on slowing down Bosa.
Mack might have to get 20 sacks to get there, a feat he’s never accomplished. But he was on pace for 15 sacks last season before injuries shut down his season. And he hasn’t been paired with an edge rusher as talented as Bosa. If Mack is healthy and in form, he could be in store for an incredible year.
You could make the same case for Bosa, but we’re going bold aren’t we?
Brandon Staley wins Coach of the Year
I thought this was really bold, then I saw Staley listed as the favorite to win Coach of the Year. Oops. Well, it’s still pretty bold, right?
Winning an award like Coach of the Year involves team success, obviously. But it also requires a coach to win over the majority of writers and pundits who vote on this award. Staley shouldn’t have too much trouble achieving that this year, as many analysts were fawning over his aggressiveness early on in the season.
The problem is, lots of Staley’s aggressive decisions didn’t go his way, as Los Angeles went 22-of-34 on fourth down attempts. Some of that was due to poor execution by the players, and some of it was due to simply bad luck that can easily flip in Staley’s favor this year.
Los Angeles also needs to cut down on its penalties, especially in critical situations. The Chargers committed the third-most penalties in the league last year. You can excuse it for a young team with a first-year head coach, but they have to clean things up in 2022.
Staley has already earned the respect of the voters. And he seems to have traits of being the next great young coach. Now he just has to learn from last year’s miscues and make the most of the talent he’s been given. If the Chargers win the division, Staley should take this award home.
Speaking of winning the division…
Chargers win the AFC West
As I mentioned above, this division is going to be a gauntlet. It’s going to be insanely fun to watch the divisional matchups. The division is the deepest in the NFL. But it’s also more open for the taking than it’s been in a little while.
The Kansas City Chiefs, who have won the division six years in a row, are a little vulnerable. They still have Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Andy Reid. But Tyreek Hill was traded to Miami and this defense still has flaws at all three levels.
You could argue Los Angeles has the most complete roster in the division. They’ve got the quarterback, a deep offensive line and elite weapons. They have several stars on defense in Bosa, Mack, safety Derwin James, newly-signed corner J.C. Jackson and ascending corner Asante Samuel Jr.
Most importantly, the Chargers allocated resources to addressing their Achilles’ heel in 2021, the run defense. The Chargers added defensive tackles Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson to fortify the middle of their front seven. If Los Angeles can defend the run more effectively, they could have one of the best defenses in the conference.
The Chiefs are still the Chiefs. The Broncos have Russell Wilson. The Raiders reunited Derek Carr and Davante Adams. But the Chargers might have the most talent and potential entering the 2022 campaign.
Winning this division might be more difficult than winning the conference.