The San Diego Chargers were probably not anyone’s sleeper Super Bowl pick going into the 2016 NFL season. Even before the season started, they were among the team’s with some of the worst Super Bowl odds.
Add question marks with their running game, offensive line, defense and now a rash of injuries including key players like Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead, and they’re just about left for dead.
That is certainly what it looks like, but there may be enough evidence through two weeks to suggest the Bolts just might hang around as a tough out in 2016.
We saw two shades of it in the first two weeks. On one hand, the Chargers ran well and were aggressive early in week one, allowing them to march into Kansas City and nearly upset the favored Chiefs. Their coined self destruction mode kicked in during the second half, however, which was undoubtedly tipped off by Allen suffering yet another season-ending injury, this time of the ACL variety.
Nevertheless, the Chargers still put up 27 points and beat the Chiefs around so much that they needed a heroic comeback and a touchdown in overtime to steal a win they should have had in the first place.
Many expected the Chargers to lie down and take it to the chin in a week two home battle with the Jaguars, but they struck early and never looked back in a 38-14 romp, even after losing Woodhead to a season-ending knee injury.
Two weeks into the new year, the Bolts are a middling 1-1 and they’re down two of the most vital pieces of their offense. That being said, they still remain in the running for the AFC West and there could be an argument that they might be a sleeper Super Bowl squad, even with these brutal injuries. Let’s explore why:
Philip Rivers Won’t Be Denied
It’s fair to say that Rivers actually has been denied quite a bit in his career and specifically last year, the Chargers didn’t win many games. However, there aren’t many quarterbacks – let alone players – that wear their emotions on their sleeves and play their hearts out quite like Rivers does.
The nice thing is it’s not like Rivers is just a passionate guy who wants to win, either. He’s a maestro in the pocket who can make every throw and often comes up big in the clutch. With a still abundant supporting cast, there is an argument to be made for Rivers having a massive 2016 campaign. After four passing scores in week two, it’s kind of already happening.
Melvin Gordon is The Truth
The loss of Woodhead hurts San Diego two-fold, as he’s a menace in the red-zone, is an active and effective receiver and is also a capable rusher. We saw that all before and again through the first two games, but the good news is that Woodhead had a nice talent working alongside him.
Second-year man Melvin Gordon has already been a machine through the first two games, finding his way to the first three touchdowns of his career and even rushing for 100 yards in week two. Gordon still has some inconsistencies to iron out, but he’s a talented, balanced rusher who has loads of upside. If he is finally realizing his potential in year two, the Chargers may not end up missing Woodhead at all.
They Have Weapons
Outside of the fiery Rivers and an improved Gordon, this is still not a team without talent. That can’t take away from what Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead brought to the table – which was a lot – but Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams are both young talents that showed right away in week two that they can take on bigger roles.
Both Benjamin and Williams are threats to take any play the distance, while guys like Dontrelle Inman, Antonio Gates, rookie tight end Hunter Henry and even recently added scat-back Dexter McCluster all make up a surprisingly stacked offense that can absolutely survive these two normally devastating injuries.
Their Odds Are Fun
Even if you don’t buy into San Diego surviving these bad injuries, let’s just consider what betting on them looks like. Per Bovada, they are last in terms of AFC West odds at +650, meaning a $100 bet returns a solid $650 for you and the higher your bet, well, you get the idea.
Just for the division – which at 1-1 the Chargers are just a game out of currently – you’re looking at a solid payday. Offensively, the Bolts have enough to give it a go, and if their defense can hold up, they actually might have something here. That may not be enough to touch San Diego’s +2500 odds to get to the Super Bowl, but they’re not dead just yet.