The Chargers had the most disappointing season in the league last season based on their season win total performance. They fell a league-high four and a half wins below their season win total of nine and a half wins with a 5-11 overall record. Unsurprisingly, they finished only ahead of another gigantically disappointing team in the Browns with their 4-10-2 against-the-spread record. That disappointing ATS mark included a 1-5-1 record playing their home games in front of their opponent’s fans in a soccer stadium.
Philip Rivers and company seemingly invented ways to lose in tight contests as they finished with a 2-9 record in one-score games. Los Angeles featured the two biggest favorites to make the playoffs last season who failed to actually reach the postseason — the Rams were -300 and the Chargers were -190. The Chargers allowed the 13th-fewest points per game (21.6) while scoring the 12th-fewest PPG (21.1), which results in a 9-7 mark toward under totals.
After coming nowhere close to their 2019 season win total (9.5), the Chargers saw their 2020 season win total plummet by two victories to seven and a half wins. Los Angeles wrapped up the under for their season win total last season when they fell to 4-8 after a Week 13 loss to the Broncos. They’re +163 to make the playoffs in their first season without Rivers since 2003. Entering training camp, I have the Chargers power rated as the 23rd-best team in the NFL (+4500 to win Super Bowl LV), as the 11th-best team in the AFC (+2200 to win the conference), and as the third-best team in the AFC West (+900).
|Week||Opponent (spread if available)||Time|
|1||@Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5)||4:05|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs (+6.5)||4:25|
|4||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6)||1|
|5||@New Orleans Saints||8:15 (Mon)|
|6||New York Jets (-5.5)||4:05|
|9||Las Vegas Raiders||4:05|
|11||@Denver Broncos (+2.5)||4:05|
|13||New England Patriots (-1)||4:25|
|15||@Las Vegas Raiders||8:20 (Thurs)|
|16||Denver Broncos (-2.5)||TBA|
|17||@Kansas City Chiefs||1|
Key Off-season Moves
Chris Harris (CB)
Justin Herbert (QB)
Kenneth Murray (LB)
Bryan Bulaga (OT)
Linval Joseph (DT)
Trai Turner (OG)
Philip Rivers (QB, Ind)
Melvin Gordon (RB, Den)
Russell Okung (OT, Car)
Thomas Davis (LB, Was)
Jatavis Brown (LB, Phi)
Derek Watt (FB, Pit)
Adrian Phillips (S, NE)
Brandon Mebane (DT, FA)
Travis Benjamin (WR, SF)
2020 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||7.5 (-143/+118)|
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Chargers have the profile of a team I would typically be looking to bet over this season. They averaged 5.9 yards per play on offense (7th-most) last season while allowing just 5.4 YPP on defense (15th-fewest). They finished with an extremely disappointing 5-11 record against a relatively easy schedule because of a league-worst -17 turnover differential. The Chargers let the main culprit for those turnovers, Philip Rivers, walk this off-season after he averaged 18.5 turnovers per season over the last four years.
Los Angeles is going to roll with more of a ball-control attack this season with Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert at quarterback. HC Anthony Lynn wants to protect the rock this season by running his own version of mentor Greg Roman’s offense. Tyrod played under Roman and Lynn in Buffalo in 2015-16, and Lynn will be looking to imitate the offenses Roman has orchestrated with Tyrod, Colin Kaepernick, and Lamar Jackson with his mobile QBs in Los Angeles.
Lynn, with his background as a running backs coach and as a former NFL RB, is likely to lean heavily into their rush attack and their potentially strong defense to play in tight games this season. The Chargers could have one of the best pass-rush pairs in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and they could have one of the better secondaries in the league with Casey Hayward, Chris Harris, and Derwin James. Los Angeles will need its defense to be one of the best in the league to overcome any shortcomings they have at quarterback this season.
The Chargers drew by far the easiest schedule in the AFC West, which includes matchups with potentially five of the worst teams in the league in the first eight weeks of the season. Los Angeles could get off to a hot start this season with home games against the Panthers (Week 3), the Jets (Week 6), and the Jaguars (Week 8) and road matchups against the Bengals (Week 1) and the Dolphins (Week 7).
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Chargers were the only team in the NFC West to see their win total drop from 2019 to 2020, plummeting by two games from a year ago. I like the overall composition of this team, but I have major concerns about their quarterback situation with Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert, which could be compounded by a still shaky O-line despite some off-season additions. Taylor had some success with Anthony Lynn in their two seasons together in Buffalo, and Tyrod posted a 22-20 record in three overall seasons with the Bills. Taylor also flamed out in front of Baker Mayfield in two and a half games the last time we saw him as a starter back in 2018.
The Chargers drafted Justin Herbert to be the franchise quarterback, but he has a lot to prove that he’s even an NFL-caliber option as a rookie with his scattershot accuracy. Taylor surely gives the Chargers a much better chance to finish above .500 this season, but the Chargers will feel the pressure to get Herbert into the lineup at some point in 2020 as they enter a new stadium after spending a top-10 pick on him. It doesn’t help that the Chargers will once again have one of the worst O-lines in the league even after adding RT Bryan Bulaga and RG Trai Turner.
The Chargers defense does have some blue-chip pieces in EDGE Joey Bosa, EDGE Melvin Ingram, CB Casey Hayward, CB Chris Harris, and S Derwin James, but the overall depth of the defense is lacking, especially at linebacker. Los Angeles moved up to draft Kenneth Murray 23rd overall, and they’ll need him to play like a veteran or else this linebacking corps could be a trouble spot.
The Chargers do have some easy games to start the year, but they also have matchups with three of my top-five power rated teams in the first five weeks of the season (KC, @TB, @NO). LA’s schedule also gets much tougher in the second half of the year after their Week 10 bye (@Den, @Buf, NE, Atl, @LV, Den, @KC) so they’ll need to get off to a hot start to have a chance to win 8+ games.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Austin Ekeler: rushing + receiving yards (1350.5), most rushing yards (+6000), OPOY (+6000)
Fantasy Points Projections: rushing + receiving yards (1255), rushing yards (555)
Best-case scenario: Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley aren’t ready for big roles in 2020 and Ekeler sees even more usage than anticipated with Melvin Gordon leaving for the Broncos.
Worst-case scenario: Anthony Lynn is reluctant to put too much on Ekeler’s plate and he actively rotates Jackson and Kelley into the mix. The switch from Philip Rivers to Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert also crushes his receiving production.
Keenan Allen: receiving yards (1000.5), most receiving yards (+3300)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (960), receptions (80)
Best-case scenario: Allen posts his fourth straight season with 16 games, 136+ targets, 97+ catches, 1100+ yards, and six TDs even with his buddy Philip Rivers bolting for Indianapolis.
Worst-case scenario: Allen sees a major dip in production with Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert taking over the offense as his stranglehold on targets in this offense dries up with Rivers out of town.
Hunter Henry: receiving yards (675.5)
Fantasy Points Projections: receiving yards (715)
Best-case scenario: Henry sees his 17% target share from last season grow with Philip Rivers gone, and he’s able to play a 16-game season for the first time in his first five seasons.
Worst-case scenario: The quantity and quality of targets that Henry sees this season goes down significantly switching from Rivers to Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert. He also struggles to stay healthy again after missing 23-of-64 games to start his career.
Best Bets and Leans
Be sure to check out all of our staff Best Bets for NFL Futures.
The Chargers have the looks of being a potential five-win team or a 10-win team based on how they get out of the gates with Tyrod Taylor. If the Chargers get off to a good start against a relatively easy schedule, the veteran QB will likely stay in the lineup and the Chargers could contend for an AFC Wild Card spot down the stretch. If the Chargers stumble a bit out before their Week 10 bye, I anticipate that Anthony Lynn will pull the plug on Taylor to get Justin Herbert on the field to learn on the job before 2021. Basically, the Chargers have a better chance to go over their win total the longer that Taylor is in the lineup while the under is in play the sooner that Herbert gets into the lineup.
I’m not a big believer in Lynn as the head coach, but the Chargers gave him an extension this off-season through the 2021 season with the franchise heading into a new state-of-the-art stadium. I believe the new deal will give Lynn the freedom to insert Herbert into the lineup earlier than he would if his contract were still set to expire after 2020. The team’s success (or failure) in 2021 will ultimately determine if Lynn is back for another contract so he needs Herbert to be a competent quarterback by his second season.
I think Lynn and the Chargers will get Herbert into the lineup sooner rather than later this season, and I’m wagering two units on the Chargers to finish under eight wins this season. The one thing that has me hesitant to pull the trigger against the Chargers this season is their easy schedule compared to their AFC West counterparts. The Chargers two extra AFC games this season are against the Bengals and the Jaguars, but I believe their bottom-10 QB situation and coach is enough for me to bet them under .500 record.
I’m also leaning toward Austin Ekeler under 1350.5 rushing and receiving yards. Our projections have Ekeler forecasted for 9.5 fewer yards than his DraftKings total, and I’m expecting his receiving production to plummet from a year ago (92/993/3 receiving). Philip Rivers loved to check it down to his backs when he felt pressure behind this bad Chargers O-line, but Taylor and Herbert will be much more likely to tuck it and run when they feel a pass rush. Lynn is also likely to get Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley involved in some early-down situations so Ekeler has the potential to underwhelm a bit compared to his 2019 totals.
Best Bets: Chargers under eight wins (-110, FanDuel). Risk two units to win 1.82 units…Justin Herbert under 3400 passing yards (posted in Best Bets May 7)…Justin Herbert under 21 passing TDs (posted in Best Bets May 7)
Leans: Austin Ekeler under 1350.5 rushing + receiving yards (-110, DraftKings)