This fantasy preview is part of a preseason series by FantasyLabs Editor-in-Chief Matthew Freedman. Other pieces in the series are available on our Fantasy Football Preview Dashboard.
In 1960, the Los Angeles Chargers played their inaugural season as a charter member of the American Football League, making it all the way to the AFL Championship game before losing to the Houston Oilers. The next year the team relocated to San Diego — and lost another AFL Championship game. That sounds about right. After another five-and-a-half decades of more-or-less middling play, the Chargers have returned home on the heels of back-to-back last-place AFC West campaigns. Despite being quarterbacked over the last fifteen years by two potential Hall-of-Famers in Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, the Chargers in that span have appeared in only one conference championship game. In fact, the team is yet to reach double-digit wins since 2010, when it Voldemort-like split with the soul of the franchise, Hall-of-Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson. For the Spanos family and first-year head coach Anthony Lynn, the goal for 2017 should be simple: Don’t be the worst NFL franchise in Los Angeles.
Lynn has exactly one game of experience as a HC: A 20-point loss to the hapless Jets in Week 17 last year. That doesn’t sound like the guy who should be guiding a team as it relocates. Was Jeff Fisher not available? He already has experience with the whole ‘moving a team to LA’ thing. Lynn is a likable guy with a great backstory — as a pedestrian he once was hit by a drunk driver and literally had part of his face ripped off in the collision, requiring multiple surgeries, and he somehow missed less than two weeks of work — but that he’s been placed in this situation is borderline ridiculous.
A rookie HC taking over a 9-23 team in its first year in a city that already has another bad football team that just moved there: What could possibly go wrong? If the Chargers don’t win one of their early home games, they could theoretically have negative home-field advantage in a half-empty stadium for the rest of the year. That’s not an ideal scenario for a rookie HC.
A big-bodied bruising All-Southwest Conference tailback at Texas Tech, Lynn went undrafted in 1992 due to a college knee injury. Splitting time with the Broncos and 49ers in the 1990s, Lynn established himself as a reliable reserve running back and core special teams player for teams that regularly played deep into the postseason. With the 1997-98 Broncos, Lynn won back-to-back Super Bowls: He was HC Mike Shanahan’s Brandon Bolden.
Retiring in 2000 due to neck injuries, Lynn immediately transitioned to coaching. After serving as a special teams assistant in Denver for three years (2000-02), Lynn established himself as something of a running back whisperer as the position coach for some productive backfields:
- Jaguars (2003-04): Fred Taylor
- Cowboys (2005-06): Julius Jones and Marion Barber
- Browns (2007-08): Jamal Lewis
- Jets (2009-14): Thomas Jones, Tomlinson, Shonn Greene, Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell
- Bills (2015-16): LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, Mike Gillislee
As the man behind Rex Ryan’s ground-and-pound run-heavy approach, Lynn was given assistant HC duties on top of his position coach responsibilities in 2013. After the Jets fired Ryan in 2014, they interviewed Lynn as his potential replacement. Lynn didn’t get the job, and he followed Ryan to Buffalo, where he served as the assistant HC and running backs coach before being replacing Greg Roman as OC following the team’s 0-2 start last season. After an overtime loss to the Dolphins on Christmas Eve, Ryan was fired and Lynn was named interim HC.
Given that Lynn has only one game of experience as HC and 14 games as OC, we perhaps shouldn’t read too much into the tendencies of the offenses with which he’s been associated. That said, it’s worth noting that in Lynn’s 14 years as a running backs coach not once has his team not been in the top half of the league in run/pass ratio. In fact, his offenses have been top-12 in run/pass ratio 10 times; top-six, seven times. Most recently with the Bills, Lynn coached and then coordinated an offense that in each of the last two seasons was top-two in run/pass ratio and carries and first in yards and touchdowns rushing.
Additionally, not once has one of Lynn’s offenses played faster than 10th in neutral pace. They haven’t been necessarily slow — in his eight years with Ryan the offense on average was 16th in pace — but never has Lynn been a coach for a unit that played fast. Over the last two years the Bills on average ranked 17th in rate of play.
Some people might think that because Ken Whisenhunt is the OC, the Chargers will play at a top-12 pace and finish top-five in pass attempts. That’s possible, but this isn’t Whisenhunt’s team and he doesn’t have Kurt Warner at quarterback and young Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin at receiver. Although Whisenhunt might incline toward an uptempo pass-heavy offense, when he’s been a coordinator he’s done what his HC has wanted. As the OC for the Steelers, Whisenhunt oversaw an offense that was first overall in rushing attempts in two of three seasons (2004-06). In his first stint with the Chargers under HC Mike McCoy (2013) he ran an offense that was top-eight in run/pass ratio and rushing attempts. Furthermore, that offense was slow (29th), and over the last four years (Chargers, 2013 and 2016; Titans, 2014-15) Whiz has on average been 26th in pace. If Lynn wants a run-heavy ball-control offense, Whiz is more than capable of providing it.
In all probability, the 2017 Chargers will be a team that rides running back Melvin Gordon and plays no faster than a league-average pace.
With the return of receiver Keenan Allen, this offense should look substantially different this year (until he suffers an injury):
- QB: Philip Rivers
- RB: Melvin Gordon/Danny Woodhead –> Gordon
- WR: Keenan Allen/Travis Benjamin –> Allen
- WR: Tyrell Williams
- WR: Dontrelle Inman –> Inman/Benjamin/Mike Williams
- TE: Antonio Gates/Hunter Henry
- LT: King Dunlap/Chris Hairston –> Russell Okung
- LG: Orlando Franklin –> Matt Slauson
- C: Matt Slauson –> Spencer Pulley
- RG: D.J. Fluker –> Forrest Lamp –> Kenny Wiggins/Dan Feeney
- RT: Joe Barksdale
As Woodhead appeared in only one full game last year, his absence will hardly be felt this year. Gordon is locked in as the three-down workhorse with little competition for carries. Allen played 27 snaps last year before tearing his ACL. He reportedly has returned to form and should resume his role as the No. 1 receiver as Tyrell, Inman, Benjamin, and maybe even first-round rookie Mike Williams compete for snaps.
While continuity on the offensive line is usually desirable, last year’s line finished as Pro Football Focus’ second-worst unit, allowing 238 quarterback pressures and creating 1.5 yards before contact per carry. Barksdale is the only starter still in place. Dunlap is retired (a.k.a. unwanted by any NFL team), Fluker is a backup guard with the Giants on a one-year deal, and Franklin was released following the second- and third-round selections of guards Lamp and Feeney. Slauson was decent at center, but he’ll slide over to left guard (where he played for six years with the Jets and Bears), and he’ll be replaced by Pulley, who saw some action in spots as an undrafted rookie. Lamp was slated to replace Fluker, but he tore his ACL in early August and now the backup Wiggins and rookie Feeney are expected to compete for the starting right guard spot.
With Okung and Slauson manning the left side, the line should be improved, but last year Pulley and Barksdale had poor PFF grades of 44.6 and 56.2 overall and Wiggins was a below-average player. We shouldn’t expect the offensive line to outperform significantly last year’s marks of 3.97 adjusted line yards per carry (23rd of 32) and 6.6 percent adjusted sack rate (24th). The good news is that the offensive line probably can’t be any worse than it was last year.
On defense, the biggest change is that former Jaguars HC and Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley has replaced John Pagano. With Bradley as the DC, the team is transitioning away from the 3-4 defense that’s been a legacy holdover from the Wade Phillips era (2004-06). In its place, the Seattle-style 4-3 hybrid system will be installed:
- DE: Joey Bosa
- NT: Brandon Mebane/Damion Square –> DT: Mebane
- DE: Corey Liuget –> DT: Liuget
- OLB: Melvin Ingram –> DE: Ingram
- MLB: Jatavis Brown/Korey Toomer –> OLB: Brown
- MLB: Manti Te’o/Denzel Perryman –> Toomer/Perryman
- OLB: Kyle Emanuel
- CB: Jason Verrett/Trevor Williams –> Verrett
- CB: Casey Hayward/Brandon Flowers –> Hayward
- SCB: Craig Mager/Trevor Williams –> Mager
- SS: Jahleel Addae/Adrian Phillips –> Addae/Phillips
- FS: Dwight Lowery –> Lowery/Tre Boston
Although this defense disappointed last year, it could be strong in 2017. Bosa had a fantastic 2016 campaign as the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He and Ingram are both top-10 PFF edge defenders and figure to exert steady pressure on opposing quarterbacks, especially if Liuget and Mebane (both of whom ended 2016 on the injured reserve) return to form. Perryman was slated to man the middle of the defense, but he’s undergone surgery for a torn ankle ligament. Toomer — who started eight games last year as a fill-in and received an 81.3 PFF grade — will open the season as the inside linebacker. Overall, the front seven enters 2017 as PFF’s No. 11 unit.
In the secondary, the return of Verrett is most welcome. After we was placed on the injured reserve with a season-ending ACL tear, the team was weak at corner. The 2016 free-agent acquisition Hayward was great, finishing as PFF’s No. 6 cornerback, but Williams, Flowers, and Mager all struggled. Flowers was a salary cap casualty in March and has ‘retired.’ Addae and Lowery both had above-average PFF cover grades last year, and the addition of Boston via free agency improves the unit’s depth. The Chargers currently have PFF’s No. 9 secondary.
For a team that last year was dead last in turnovers, these guys aren’t horrible.
Philip Rivers, QB
Rivers has never been cautious with the football — his 2.6 percent career interception rate makes guys like Aaron Rodgers (1.5) and Tom Brady (1.8) blush — but he’s been especially negligent over the last three years. While he completed a league-high 69.5 percent of his passes in his 2013 resurrection campaign, since then he’s managed to lead the league with 52 interceptions on his way to an 18-30 record. Across that time he’s also been third in the league with 13,464 yards, so it’s not as if he’s a substandard passer. He’s simply the quarterbacking equivalent of Daisy Buchanan: Not bad, but careless.
Of course, over the last three years Rivers has been without his No. 1 receiver for 25 of 48 games. Although Rivers has been the QB13 in DraftKings scoring since 2014 with 19.25 points per game (PPG), he’s been significantly worse without Allen on a per-game basis:
- With Allen (23 games): 37.7 attempts, 25.9 completions, 288.5 yards, 2.00 touchdowns, 0.87 interceptions
- Without Allen (25): 37.7 attempts, 22.8 completions, 273.2 yards, 1.88 touchdowns, 1.28 interceptions
When Allen is absent Rivers has attempted the same number of passes but completed fewer throws, accumulated fewer yards, totaled fewer touchdowns, and lobbed more interceptions. To be at his best, Rivers needs Allen. If you want to stack Rivers with his No. 1 receiver in daily fantasy contests, do it with our Lineup Builder.
Still, even without Allen for almost the entirety of last season, Rivers was acceptable, finishing 14th in Total QBR (64.5, ESPN), 12th in fantasy points per dropback (0.45), and 10th in Production Premium (+9.1, PlayerProfiler). He was also 10th in air yards (2,383), sixth in deep ball attempts (79), and third in red zone attempts (102). The big question for 2017 is whether Rivers will be allowed to throw as often, as deep, and as close to the goal line as he did in 2016. He probably won’t, but at his average draft position (ADP) of 117.0 in DRAFT best ball leagues, he’s a fine pivot play on a number of the quarterbacks mentioned in my piece on the top 100 NFL players.
That said, Rivers currently has the third-highest odds to lead the league in interceptions at +600. He probably won’t throw the ball often enough to be a serious contender, but it’s hard to say that he’s significantly less likely than Blake Bortles (+550) and Eli Manning (+550) to have the most interceptions. In his 11 years as a starter, he’s never been more inaccurate than he was last season with his 60.4 percent completion rate.
Melvin Gordon, RB
Here’s the Gordon blurb from my piece on the top 100 NFL players:
Inefficient in the running game, Gordon feasts on volume and scores. Before suffering season-ending injuries in Week 14, MG3 averaged 20.9 carries, 4.7 targets, and one touchdown per game last year.
Despite playing in only 12 full games (and eight snaps of another game), Gordon tied for third in the league with 17 carries inside the five-yard line. In fact, with 85.0 percent of the team’s goal-line rushing attempts, Gordon was the league leader. As unbelievable as this sounds, he was the only Charger last year to score a rushing touchdown. On no other team was just one player responsible for 100 percent of the rushing scores.
Gordon is the quintessential workhorse: In his 10 post-Woody/pre-injury contests, he played on 86.0 of the team’s offensive snaps. That’s incredibly high for a running back, and it underscores the extent to which Gordon is a full-on three-down back. Only David Johnson (293, 120), Le’Veon Bell (261, 94), DeMarco Murray (293, 67), and Todd Gurley (278, 58) had more than Gordon’s 254 carries and 57 targets in 2016 — again, in just a little over 12 games.
Nevertheless, Gordon is yet to play like an elite NFL back. Efficiency numbers can mislead — and opportunity is more important than efficiency — but Gordon has been a mediocre producer from a volume-agnostic perspective. Last year he was 18th at the position in breakaway run rate (5.9 percent), 35th in yards after contact per touch (1.1), and 44th in juke rate (21.4 percent). Against light fronts, he was 49th with 4.4 yards per carry (PlayerProfiler). Last year he was productive, but he wasn’t impressive. His career mark of 3.74 yards per carry (YPC) is problematic.
That said, he’s important to the team. Each of the last two years he’s suffered season-ending injuries. In the five contests he’s fully missed, the Chargers have been much worse on a per-game basis:
- With Gordon (25 games): 66.2 plays, 23.4 points, 1.99 points per drive
- Without Gordon (5): 65.2, 20.0, 1.71
Given the history of Lynn’s offenses, it’s likely that Gordon will be relied on heavily this year. When Lynn has had multiple backs he’s liked on the same team he hasn’t hesitated to split snaps — but Branden Oliver, Kenneth Farrow, and Andre Williams don’t seem likely to earn extra opportunities at Gordon’s expense.
Right now Gordon has the seventh-highest odds at +1,800 to finish the season with the most rushing yards. Lynn last year oversaw the offense that was first in rushing and second in carries, and Gordon is a 75th percentile SPARQ-x athlete (PlayerProfiler) who could experience a boost in efficiency. Of the 10 backs with the highest implied odds to lead the league in rushing, Gordon is the one I like the most at his investment cost. His 10.1 DRAFT ADP is fair value.
Although the sample is small, Gordon exhibited some intriguing splits last year in his 12 injury-free games:
- Home vs. away: 23.23 DraftKings PPG vs. 20.28
- Favorite vs. underdog: 23.82 vs. 19.7
Naturally, Gordon crushed in his five games as a home favorite, averaging 26.00 PPG with an +11.75 Plus/Minus and 100.0 percent Consistency Rating (per our Trends tool). While Gordon’s 19.2 percent ownership rate as a home favorite in large-field guaranteed prize pools might seem high, he was actually a sharp pivot off of Bell and Johnson, who in similar situations collectively averaged 27.94 PPG with a +7.77 Plus/Minus and 85.7 percent Consistency Rating at 24.3 percent ownership. Gordon didn’t score as many points, but he was cheaper, more productive from a salary-adjusted perspective, more consistent, and less popular.
This year FantasyLabs users can review ownership trends across GPPs of various buy-in levels with our DFS Ownership Dashboard, which is reason enough to subscribe to FantasyLabs. Be sure to monitor our Vegas Dashboard to see how the market views the Chargers at home each week. Gordon’s 2016 tendency to overperform as a home favorite could extend into 2017.
Branden Oliver, RB
Undrafted out of Buffalo in 2014, Oliver was a collegiate workhorse who rushed for 1,250.3 yards and 11 touchdowns per year and chipped in 65 total receptions across his three seasons as a starter. The problem with him is that he’s small (5’7″ and 208 lbs.), slow (4.63-second 40), unagile (7.04-second three-cone), and nonexplosive (117-inch broad). As a rookie he did yeoman’s work as an injury fill-in and change-of-pace back, accumulating 853 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns, but his career 3.6 YPC speaks to how unfit he is to be an NFL ball carrier. Still, he’s a capable receiver with his 81.7 percent career catch rate and 6.4 yards per target (YPT) — he’s every bit as good as Gordon (78.7 percent, 6.5 YPT) — so it’s possible he could be used to spell Gordon on passing downs. He missed last season with an Achilles’ tear but is healthy now and participating in training camp and preseason games.
Kenneth Farrow, RB
Farrow was undrafted last year out of Houston, where in his final two college seasons he averaged 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns rushing per year, adding 30 total receptions. Although he’s not fast (4.59-second 40), Farrow still has a good athletic profile with his size (5’10” and 219 lbs.), agility (6.95-second three-cone), burst (122-inch broad), and strength (23 bench press reps). After Gordon’s injury last year, Farrow served as the lead back before suffering his own season-ending injury (shoulder) in Week 16. Although Farrow didn’t play well in his three games as the workhorse (9.93 DraftKings PPG), he did manage to catch 12-of-13 targets — and it’s hard to blame him too much for not playing well when he was running behind a paper-thin line on a team ‘coached’ by someone who knew he was about to be fired. Farrow’s probably not a good player, but if Gordon suffers an injury in 2017 he could be a serviceable contributor.
Andre Williams, RB
Selected in the fourth round by the Giants in 2014, Williams had a 355-2,177-18 rushing line as a senior at Boston College but caught only 10 passes as an undergraduate. Possessing elite size (5’11″and 230 lbs.), Williams to date has played in the NFL like a guy who learned in college that running into the offensive line is good and catching the ball is unimportant. His career 3.3 YPC and 45.2 percent catch rate are abominable. Still, in his one game with the Chargers last year he looked like an actual NFL back, turning 18 carries against the Chiefs in Week 17 into 87 yards. If Gordon misses games this year, Williams could resurrect his career as the injury fill-in.
Keenan Allen, WR
In 2013, Allen rose to the top of the Chargers depth chart as a third-round rookie thanks to a series of injuries to the receivers ahead of him. Since then, however, the fantasy gods have reminded that whatsoever they giveth they also taketh away. Each of Allen’s last three years has ended early due to injury. In fact, each year has ended earlier than the previous one:
- 2014: Week 15
- 2015: Week 8
- 2016: Week 1
If Allen’s injury history weren’t so disheartening it would be hilarious. When healthy, Allen has looked like a top-10 receiver over the last two seasons. Playing just 27 snaps last year, he ran 18 routes. He was targeted on seven of them with six receptions for 63 yards. In 2016 he played only half the season, but he was on the field for 90.0 percent of the snaps in his eight games, and he finished the year sixth among wide receivers with 21.44 DraftKings PPG.
In 2014, though, when he played 14 games, he was just 29th with 13.31 DraftKings PPG, and over the last three years combined he’s 17th in scoring with 16.09 PPG. Allen is a skilled player who runs precise routes and lines up all over the formation, but it’s possible he’s not as dominant as the small sample of the last two years suggests. Additionally, there could be fewer targets to go around in what’s likely to be a run-heavy offense, and Allen will almost certainly lose targets to Tyrell, Inman, Benjamin, Clemson Mike (if he plays) and also Henry — none of whom were established options in the Chargers offense when Allen last played. Allen has some underappreciated risk at his 36.2 DRAFT ADP.
Tyrell Williams, WR
Playing at least two-thirds of the Chargers’ snaps in each game after Allen’s Week 1 injury, Tyrell the Gazelle led the team in targets (119), receptions (69), and yards receiving (1,059) last season and lined up all over the formation with 243 routes run out wide on the left, 215 on the right, and 140 in the slot. An undrafted project player in 2015 out of Western Oregon, where he had a respectable but unremarkable career (56-950-8 stat line as a senior in 10 games), Williams is in the NFL because he has a near-elite combination of size (6’3″ and 204 lbs.), speed (4.43 second-40), agility (6.74-second three-cone), and burst (127-inch broad). Sitting out most of his rookie year, Williams has played only 17 games as a receiver in the NFL, 16 of those without Allen: In those 16 games, he’s averaged 7.44 targets per game (TPG) for a 4.3-67.4-0.5 stat line and 14.61 DraftKings PPG. His usage will be limited as the No. 2 receiver in a run-heavy offense, but Williams has upside at his 100.1 DRAFT ADP. In his eight career games with a touchdown, big-play Tyrell has averaged 19.11 DraftKings PPG — and if Allen suffers an injury Tyrell will ball.
Dontrelle Inman, WR
Like Tyrell, Inman owes most of of his NFL production to Allen’s absence. He’s played as a consistent member of the offense in 29 games; 23 of them were without Allen. His per-game splits are telling:
- With Allen: 3.5 targets, 1.7 receptions, 24.7 yards, 0.17 touchdowns, 47.7 percent catch rate, 7.05 YPT, 6.16 DraftKings PPG
- Without Allen: 6.7 targets, 4.1 receptions, 56.1 yards, 0.26 touchdowns, 61.0 percent catch rate, 8.4 YPT, 11.48 DraftKings PPG
Running 61.8 percent of his routes from the slot, Inman is the receiver who benefits most directly from Allen’s absence, playing on 90.7 percent of offensive snaps in games without him. Despite having a pitiful college career — he scored only three touchdowns in four years at Virginia — Inman has established himself as an NFL role player after playing in the Canadian Football League for two years (2012-13), accumulating a 100-1,542-11 receiving line across two seasons before jumping to the NFL. With good speed (4.47-second 40) and agility (6.53-second three-cone) for his size (6’3″ and 198 lbs.), Inman is likely to see regular snaps in the slot in three-wide sets and even more snaps outside if Allen is injured.
Travis Benjamin, WR
Although the big-play veteran was hampered for most of his first season with the team, he still saw 51.5 percent of the offensive snaps. A boom-or-bust receiver with great speed (4.36-second 40) and double-dip upside as a punt returner (three career return touchdowns), Benjamin has receiving scores in seven of 30 games over the last two seasons. In those games, he’s averaged 21.19 DraftKings PPG. Finishing 2016 ranked 14th with 9.0 YPT, Benjamin is a worthy late-round best ball flyer.
Mike Williams, WR
If there’s a Laquon Treadwell in the 2017 rookie class, it’s probably Clemson Mike. Surprisingly drafted by the Chargers with the seventh overall pick, Mike Williams III is on a team that significantly invested in but doesn’t need him. As a specimen, Williams is in the mold of institutional forerunner DeAndre Hopkins: He has good size (6’4″ and 218 lbs.) and acceptable speed (4.53-second 40 time), but he’s not a great athlete. Unlike Hopkins, though, Williams didn’t have strong market share in college (28.4 percent, 2014; 25.8 percent, 2016), and he didn’t break out at a particularly young age (20). This isn’t to say that Williams didn’t have good raw production in a prolific offense . . .
- 2014 (sophomore): 57 receptions, 1,030 yards, six touchdowns in 12 games
- 2016 (redshirt junior): 98 receptions, 1,361 yards, 11 touchdowns in 15 games
. . . but it’s relatively rare for receivers drafted in the top 10 to have market share numbers as low as his. He’s a good player — last year he was eighth among all draft-eligible wide receivers with a 53.8 percent deep-pass catch rate and 10th with 3.35 yards per route run (Pro Football Focus) — but over the last four months his ADP in rookie drafts has plummeted. It doesn’t help that he missed almost all of the 2015 season with a broken neck and now is expected to miss at least the first month of the 2017 season with a “mild disc herniation.”
That said, Williams is a top-10 NFL pick with near-elite size, adequate athleticism, and perhaps acceptable college production. If he falls to the second round of rookie drafts, he’ll be a strong low-risk high-upside acquisition target at his reduced cost.
Hunter Henry, TE
As a rookie, Henry scored eight touchdowns last year. Hall-of-Famer Mike Ditka, Pro-Bowler Junior Miller, and all-time party boy Rob Gronkowski are the only tight ends ever to score more touchdowns as first-year players. Rookie tight ends almost never lead their teams in touchdowns receiving — but Henry did. Even though there’s robust competition for targets and the offense is likely to pass less than it did last year, Henry can withstand target reduction as long as he still gets action near the goal line. He’s priced aggressively at his 107.3 DRAFT ADP, but Henry might see more snaps this year — the Chargers could use more 12-personnel packages as they shift to a run-heavy scheme — and his upside is massive. Throughout his entire career, Rivers has never been more efficient (in terms of adjusted yards per attempt) than he has when throwing to Henry (12.1). Investing in Henry on a yearly basis will likely be a productive long-term tactic.
Antonio Gates, TE
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Touchdown 112 and goal-line targets: Play.
The Chargers currently have a 2017 win total of 7.5 games with a -150 over and +120 under. They’re also +225 to make the playoffs and -285 not to. Given that the Chargers had a 7.7-win Pythagorean Expectation last year and get Allen and Verrett back, I like their chances to hit the over. At the same time, there’s little value in betting the over. At +225, I’d rather bet that they leverage their eight-plus wins into a Black Swan-ish playoff spot in the soft AFC.
The Chargers are currently +5,000 to win the Super Bowl, +2,000 to win the AFC, and +400 to win the tough AFC West. The Chargers haven’t won their division since LT left the team in 2010, and they haven’t made it to the AFC Championship since LT carried them there in 2007. With this offensive line, they can’t be trusted as anything more than a possible wild card.
In researching for this piece I consulted Evan Silva’s excellent Chargers Fantasy Preview at Rotoworld and relied on data from Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, Football Perspective, PlayerProfiler, Team Rankings, The Power Rank, NFL.com, and the apps at RotoViz as well as the FantasyLabs Tools and Models.
Ian Hartitz contributed research to this article.