Just a couple years ago the San Diego Chargers were the best team in the NFL (which was true even early in the season), even if they had atrocious special teams and ended up not making the playoffs. That year they were 2-5 at this point but then rattled off a 7-2 record the rest of the way, finally realizing the potential (and avoiding some of the bad luck) they had in the beginning of the season. This year, the Chargers are 3-4 so far, so on the face of it you might think they’re in a similar position. They still have Phil Rivers, Ryan Mathews is around with more experience, Antonio Gates is still coming through that door (if a bit older), and some of the defense is still there, like Jammer and Weddle. In short, they “look” like a decent team, like the one that was underrated at 9-7 in 2010. However, they’re probably more like the mediocre 8-8 team from last year.
In the power rankings from this week, the Chargers are above average but not really setting the world on fire. They’re actually doing it on defense; their offense is basically average. Fortunately for them, this week they get to host the Kansas City Chiefs, who are nearly the worst team in the league. Yes, the Chargers just lost 7-6 to the Browns, so anything is possible. On the other hand, the Chiefs have someone who is generally recognized as one of the top running backs in the league but who only got 5 carries and 3 passing targets in his last game. The Chiefs are one overtime victory away from having 0 wins. Even if your team is mediocre, you’ll look good playing against the dregs when the dregs are this bad.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, they don’t have an easy road the rest of the way. After Kansas City tonight, the only teams they clearly outrank are the Jets, Oakland, and Carolina, and even the Jets game is on the road. They play at Tampa, Denver, and Pittsburgh, all teams I have as being superior, and they have Baltimore and the Bengals at home. Those two teams are a bit more evenly matched, but they won’t be easy games. So if you give them the easy games, say a split with the Ravens and Bengals, and losses against the better teams, the Chargers would end up 4-5 in the next nine weeks and 7-9 overall. That’s essentially what the season predictions say, so it seems reasonable. Looks like another disappointing year ahead for San Diego.
But tonight at least, they should be in good shape. They’re currently going off as 9 point favorites (with good odds; the more standard -110 number is closer to 7.5), matched by a -315/285 moneyline. The expected total is 42.5 points. Somewhat unfortunately for San Diego, all three models agree that 9 is too high. They expect the Chargers to win, but by anything from 2.5 to 6.5. As such, they all like the Chiefs to cover. Similarly, they think the Chargers will win but the odds are good enough that they all like the Chiefs as a moneyline option. Finally, they disagree on the over/under, with Yoshi 1 liking the over but the other two liking the under. So I think we’ll see the Chargers get to .500 tonight, but that will likely be the last high point of the season for them, or almost certainly after they travel to Denver in two weeks.