Are The Los Angeles Chargers True Super Bowl Contenders?

Coming into the 2023 NFL season, the Los Angeles Chargers were one of the favorites in the AFC to make it to the Super Bowl. Some would say that head coach Brandon Staley’s job depended on it. Well not to rehash, but the Bolts began the season 0-2 before getting back to .500 just to drop 2 straight again to fall to 2-4.

It was at this point in the season that all seemed lost. There was chatter on whether the team should blow it all up at the trade deadline, including from this writer. Things just seemed broken. Was the coaching as bad as the outside noise made it seem to be? Was the roster overhyped? Were star players letting the team down? Was the culture souring? Was any of it fixable?

All valid questions for a 2-4 football team that had Super Bowl aspirations and a top-5 Quarterback in the league.

Since that moment, the Chargers have won two straight to claw back to .500. The first win came against a hopeless Chicago Bears team that was starting an undrafted rookie quarterback and ultimately had nothing to play for already. This game didn’t really prove anything other than the fact that the Chargers had enough talent to beat up on bad teams. On to the next.

Then came a Monday Night Football Primetime date with the New York Jets. With the loss of QB Aaron Rodgers, it was obvious that the defense was going to have to carry the team. And carry the team they have, to the tune of a 4-3 record heading into this game. They did their job against the Chargers…and still lost 27-6.

The Turning Point For The Los Angeles Chargers

This is the statement that should have Chargers fans most excited. The Chargers offense was all but dominated by the Jets defense, and yet the team won by 21 points. Justin Herbert had his worst statistical game (16-30 for 136 yards) of the season thus far, and the Chargers won by 21. The Chargers had less than 200 total yards of offense and punted eight times, and yet they won by 21.

This is not something that we have seen in the Brandon Staley era. Typically, if Justin Herbert plays poorly, nay, if Justin Herbert isn’t Superman, the Chargers lose. Typically, if the offense doesn’t score 27+ points, the Chargers lose. Typically, if the game turns into a defensive slog…well, we haven’t really seen that so there isn’t a “typically” to base that on.

Now, it should be noted that the Jets offense is bad. Coming into this game they were averaging 18 points per game. So this isn’t the same as dominating the Dolphins or Eagles, however, the Chargers defense made a bad offense look nonexistent, and that is something to build upon.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at New York Jets
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

So can we call a team that sits at 4-4 and has been wildly inconsistent a true Super Bowl contender? Anyone with a brain would tell you no. But in sports, sometimes the heart and gut instincts outweigh the thought process and reason. Sometimes a winning formula is as simple as momentum and belief.

As the great Ted Lasso once said, “I think that you might be so sure that you’re 1 in a million, that sometimes you forget that out there you’re just 1 in 11.”

Monday night may have been the first time that we saw this 2023 Chargers team do their job as 1 out of 11, instead of 1 out of 1. Trusting that the other 10 teammates will do their job as long as you do yours, and knowing that if you make a mistake, the other 10 will pick you up. The offense as a whole struggled. The defense and the special teams picked up the slack. That is how you win football games. That is how you go on a run. And that is how you win championships.

It was only one game, and the Chargers are still a .500 football team, but this is the most confident I have been that they are for real in quite some time.

Next up…the Detroit Lions next Sunday.