Crucial Clashes: Top 5 Games the Chargers Must Win in 2024

Chargers fans! Get the popcorn ready for these matchups.

Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

All games are must-win for the Los Angeles Chargers and it would be great to have a perfect season. But looking at their 2024 schedule, if they can at least win these five games, their season will definitely be headed in the right direction:

Raiders vs Chargers: Week 1, September 8

Using the word “disaster” to describe the last Raiders vs Chargers game, would actually be an understatement. To be real, the expletives I would like to use to describe that game are not suitable for this article. And if you don’t remember that game, or have better yet, blocked it from memory, let’s just say it was a Thursday night primetime matchup that got unbelievably out of hand.

Now, it should be a different story in 2024. With a healthy Justin Herbert and a fully loaded receiving core, especially with rookie wide receiver Ladd McConkey in the mix, the Chargers should be able to put up some points, and I have faith they can beat the Raiders in this season-opener. 

In Week 4 of 2023, edge rusher Maxx Crosby was able to sack Herbert twice. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was added by the Raiders during the offseason and had a career-high in sacks last year (10). I’m looking forward to rookie tackle Joe Alt and veteran center Bradley Bozeman solidifying the offensive line and providing Herbert with the protection he desperately needs.

Raiders rookie tight end Brock Bowers and wide receiver Davante Adams are going to pose additional threats, so coverage on the perimeter better be on point. But a fully healthy Chargers defense should be able to stop some of these plays before they even get going. 

Remember the Chargers vs Raiders opener at the start of 2022, when edge rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack were on another level and Mack had three sacks and Bosa had two? Yeah, I expect this opener to be like that and see that same fierceness against the Raiders quarterback (which as of now is TBD). The Chargers need to come out strong and a win over a team that’s not completely solidified in its quarterback identity, is just the one to beat. 

Chiefs vs Chargers: Week 4, September 29 

NFL: International Series- Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers just haven’t been able to beat the Chiefs the last few years and missed a great opportunity last season. In 2023, the Chiefs won a lot of games but looked very disconnected with a lack of consistent wide receiver targets with good hands (*cough Kadarius Toney), and tight end Travis Kelce was good but really heated up later in the season. 

This season, the Chargers will still have to worry about the old staples like Patrick Mahomes, Kelce, defensive lineman Chris Jones, and former Charger, linebacker Drue Tranquill, who just signed a new three-year deal. There are also new pieces like first-round pick wide receiver Xavier Worthy.

It’s important to win both Chiefs matchups on the schedule, but extra important for the first one of the season, as hopefully if they can get one a “W” early on, that’ll give them momentum to maybe pull it off again in Week 14. It’s time they stop letting the Chiefs get by and close out these games strong.

Broncos vs Chargers: Week 6, October 13 

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Week 14 against the Broncos in 2023 was infamous, as it was the game where Herbert fractured the finger on his throwing hand, ushering in the era of Easton Stick at quarterback.

From there, the Chargers offense showed flashes, but never really shined as bright as with Herbert. The Broncos have been a tough opponent for the Chargers because they have some difference-makers on defense. Cornerback Pat Surtain II is still in Denver and he will not make it easy for the rookie or veteran receivers. Defensive end Zach Allen also had career-highs in sacks (seven), quarterback hurries (38), solo tackles (38), and STOPS (36) in 2023. 

The Broncos have also added some offseason pieces like rookie wide receiver Troy Franklin of Oregon, who NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein graded  as “will eventually be a plus starter” and said he “could become a coveted complementary piece for an established WR1 or a productive vertical target for a team looking for instant help in the passing game.” They also added Josh Reynolds from the Lions, who’s coming off a career-high season in receiving touchdowns (six) and receiving yards (740).

The Broncos are another team in quarterback flux, with Jarrett Stidham at the helm and newly drafted rookie, Bo Nix, and newly traded for Zach Wilson as backups. Stidham is not an incredible quarterback and the Broncos lost their longtime center Lloyd Cushenberry III, so there is vulnerability in the offense. The Chargers haven’t beaten the Broncos since Week 6 of 2022 and given what happened last year at Denver to their star quarterback, they need to be vindicated in this early matchup. 

Bengals vs Chargers: Week 11, November 17

Syndication: The Enquirer
Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORKCredit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

We finally get our Joe Burrow vs Herbert rematch. To see two quarterbacks from the same draft class go head to head, each with monster contracts, is exciting. These two are always being compared, so it’s only fair if Herbert, who was drafted sixth overall while Burrow was first, wins this next matchup.

And the Chargers did beat them the last time they met in 2021, so they have to continue the streak. Now despite the departure of wide receiver Tyler Boyd, the Chargers still have other pieces besides Burrow to contend with, like wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. Running back Zack Moss will also be someone to keep an eye on, as the Chargers have had trouble in the past containing the run. The addition of tackle Orlando Brown Jr. will certainly make penetration harder, but their pass rushers, especially if Mack, Bosa, and Tuli Tuipulotu are all healthy, can certainly give Brown some trouble. 

Ravens vs Chargers: Week 12, November 25

NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens
Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s brother vs brother with Jim Harbaugh and John Harbaugh! It’s two elite quarterbacks with Herbert and Lamar Jackson! Nothing can be better than this. The Chargers just couldn’t get a lot going offensively during their matchup against the Ravens in 2023 and that will hopefully change this year. The run game was also pretty nonexistent, which is something Jim Harbaugh wants to fix. Wide receiver Zay Flowers, tight end Mark Andrews, and Jackson will all need to be contained during this game.

Inside linebacker Roquan Smith had his best PFF grade in 2023 for defense (91.4) and receiver coverage (90.9) when he played against the Chargers, so his presence cannot be overlooked. And more importantly, we can’t forget the big man, running back Derrick Henry, who will now be wearing a Ravens uniform.

But come on, this is not only a matchup of brother vs brother and two elite quarterbacks but it’s new Charger teammates running backs Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins vs their former team. There is so much at stake that the Chargers HAVE TO win or Jim Harbaugh may never live it down.