In the final week of the regular season last year, the Los Angeles Chargers had their fate resting in the palms of their hands. Chargers vs. Raiders. Classic. Both teams had everything to play for — win, and you’re in. To clinch the game, Las Vegas squeaked it out in overtime, nailing a field goal in the final seconds.
After the conclusion of the game, a lot of controversy and backlash surrounded Los Angeles and their clock management; many blamed first-year head coach Brandon Staley for potentially changing the Raiders’ mindset with his last second timeout call. While Staley might have made a bad choice calling that timeout, it may not be fair to say that his timeout changed the opposition’s mindset like Raiders quarterback Derek Carr claims.
No professional team plays to tie. Ever. It’s a nice story, draws headlines, but the Raiders were not playing to tie. They would have kicked that field goal anyway — with or without Staley’s timeout.
One thing was obvious in that final game: Justin Herbert was the player on the field, and it wasn’t even all that close.
In the fourth quarter, with five minutes left on the dot, the Chargers had the ball just inside the red zone, 4th and 6. The score was 14-29, Las Vegas. Los Angeles looked dead in the water. Herbert converted on that play to give his team the first, and somehow was able to score two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion in less than five minutes.
Herbert miraculously converted on a 4th and 21, which also resulted in one of the two needed touchdowns. In those final five minutes, Herbert converted on all four fourth-down passing attempts, plus one pass-interference penalty which gave them a needed first down.
In Herbert’s first two seasons, he put up some of the most insane stat-lines ever seen by any quarterback in NFL history. In his first two seasons, Herbert completed 839 passes, 69 passing touchdowns and 9,350 passing years. All three of these stats are ranked number one in the history books. I wouldn’t be surprised if Herbert breaks these same records, but this time in the category of “first three seasons.”
Coming into the 2022 NFL season, the Chargers and superstar quarterback Herbert will look to make the playoffs for the first time since being drafted. Los Angeles is too good not to make the playoffs. If you look at its roster, it has two of everything. Two ends, two wide outs, two defensive backs, etc.
This offseason, the Chargers acquired Khalil Mack from the Chicago Bears. Pairing him opposite of Joey Bosa gives LA the ability to get after opposing quarterbacks with the best of them. They have the three things every team wants: quarterback, left tackle and edge rushers.
Since the Chargers have one of the most talented rosters in the league, I believe they have a high floor going into next season. Their ceiling is one of, if not the highest, in the NFL. Having a 24-year-old quarterback with incredible skill on a roster as good as this has Super Bowl markings written all over it. I would not be surprised if we see Los Angeles go on a similar playoff run like the Cincinnati Bengals, with another young superstar quarterback in Joe Burrow.
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of the Chargers is something out of their control. They are in the strongest division in the NFL. All four teams within the AFC West have big playoff aspirations: Chargers, Raiders, Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs.
All of these teams have to play each other twice. It’s going to be really tough winning more than three of those division games. However, there’s one thing the Chargers have that nobody else does: Justin Herbert.