Game By Game Analysis And Predictions For The Chargers 2020 Season
With the 2020 NFL Schedule officially out, fans of all teams are circling the weeks of the biggest games of their favorite teams. The LA Chargers have a lot to look forward to with their new stadium, a new starting QB for the first time since 2006, a healthy Derwin James, and an influx of some awesome free agents that should have Charger fans excited about the season.
After a disappointing campaign last year, the Los Angeles Chargers will be looking to replicate the success they had two seasons ago where they made it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. With one of the easier schedules in the league, it’s not out of the question for them to do so.
Week 1 – Sunday 9/13/20, @Cincinnati Bengals
This will definitely be one of the most-watched games of Week 1 due to the anticipated debut of #1 overall pick Joe Burrow. This will be a good matchup for the Chargers vaunted defense. Despite the number of options the Bengals have, A.J. Green has had some nagging injury issues, Tee Higgins is a rookie, and Joe Mixon has been relatively inconsistent despite his statistical success. However, the last time the Chargers played the Bengals, Joe Mixon rushed for 111 yards along with a TD so it is crucial that they are able to contain him. With the additions of Linval Joseph and Kenneth Murray, the Chargers defense should be able to contain this young, inexperienced offense.
The Bengals defense definitely improved with the additions of D.J. Reader, Mackensie Alexander, and Trae Waynes, but with the improved offensive line of the Chargers, and a QB, whether it be Tyrod Taylor or Justin Herbert, that is mobile, it will provide a new dimension, that on top of the number of weapons on offense, will prove too much for the Bengals, Joe Burrow will make some head-turning plays but the Chargers should start the new era on the right note with a win.
Prediction – Chargers: 24 Bengals: 17 (1-0)
Week 2 – Sunday 9/20/20, vs Kansas City Chiefs
This game vs the Chiefs will be a major game for the organization. In addition to being the first division game of the year, it will also be the first-ever home game for the Chargers in the incredible SoFi stadium. Homefield advantage is something the Chargers have rarely felt since moving to Los Angeles, so hopefully, the new stadium electrifies the players and fans alike.
The Chargers lost both games last year but remained competitive throughout. The biggest issue was the turnovers as former QB Philip Rivers threw a combined six interceptions between the two games, including four in a 24-17 loss.
The Chiefs bring back almost everyone from their Super Bowl winning roster and have the MVP favorite Patrick Mahomes leading the way. As good as the defense is, the QB for the Chargers will not be able to keep up with Mahomes in an offensive battle and they lose their first game in the new stadium.
Prediction – Chiefs: 28 Chargers: 17 (1-1)
Week 3 – Sunday 9/27/20 vs Carolina Panthers
After a tough home-opening loss to the division rival and favorites, the Chargers get an awesome matchup vs the Panthers in which they should be the favorites. The Panthers have a completely new team with Ron Rivera and Cam Newton, two franchise pillars, no longer with the organization.
The Panthers did some exciting things on defense with the additions of Derrick Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos and they have superstar running back Christian McCaffrey, who will undoubtedly give the Chargers defense fits.
The Panthers offensive line, however, is among the worst in the league. They were 29th in pass protection last year and 17th in run blocking. That was also aided by the skills of CMC. Teddy Bridgewater is not an upgrade over Cam Newton, and he will not have the situation he had with the Saints with receivers like Michael Thomas and an offensive line that ranked 3rd in pass protection.
The Chargers defense will get to Bridgewater and the offense takes advantage of a defense that lost their leader in Luke Kuechly, as well as their #1 corner, James Bradberry, and they win their first game ever at SOFI stadium.
Prediction – Chargers: 27 Panthers: 14 (2-1)
Week 4 – Sunday 10/4/20 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is definitely one of the most exciting matchups of the season, as is any opportunity to go up against arguably the greatest player of all time in Tom Brady. This may be the last chance for them to beat Brady as he is undefeated against the Chargers.
In addition to that fire, the Chargers and Bucs were the reported two finalists to sign Brady, so the Chargers may have that snub on their minds when taking the field against the man who picked them apart last time they played in the divisional round of the 2018 Playoffs.
As good as the defense is, the Buccaneers are loaded with talent offensively with three starting-caliber tight ends and one of the best WR duos in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. It’s also an early start, and west coast teams traveling out east always seem to struggle. Brady keeps his undefeated streak vs the Chargers.
Prediction – Buccaneers: 28 Chargers: 20 (2-2)
Week 5 – Monday 10/12/20 @ New Orleans Saints
The first primetime game of the season for the Chargers occurs against a familiar face in former QB Drew Brees. One of the best home-field advantages in football, on the backend of a back to back road trip, makes this matchup even tougher than the Bucs.
Similar to Tampa, the Saints are absolutely loaded on offense with studs like Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Alvin Kamara. They also added some key guys on defense including Malcolm Jenkins who has been as reliable as any defender over the past few years. This is a bad matchup for the Chargers and though they will remain competitive, Brees and company should be able to pull this one out in the Dome.
Prediction – Saints: 28 Chargers: 23 (2-3)
Week 6 – 10/18/20 vs New York Jets
This is a crucial game for the Chargers as it starts a string of relatively easy games where they can rack up some wins and throw themselves squarely in the playoff picture. Coming off two very likely losses, this is a must-win from a record and confidence standpoint.
Sam Darnold is a nice player but if he doesn’t perform this year he may be following the same path as Mitchell Trubisky where the Jets will look at other options. The Jets did some nice things to the offensive line, but they lost their #1 receiver in Robby Anderson and will be looking at rookie Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman to step up.
This will be a matchup of two of the best safeties and defenders in the game between Jamal Adams and Derwin James. The Chargers, however, are the better team from top to bottom, and unless Darnold makes the jump the Jets hope of him, they will not be able to keep up with the Chargers offense and defense, both of which are more talented than the Jets.
Prediction – Chargers: 27 Jets: 17 (3-3)
Week 7 – 10/25/20 @ Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins are arguably the most improved team in the league and the last thing the Chargers can do is overlook them. The Chargers have a history of underperforming against teams they should beat. They lost to the Broncos two years ago in a game where they were the better team and it likely cost them the #1 seed and the AFC West Crown as they tied the Chiefs record, but placed behind due to conference record.
This game will largely be determined by the starting QB as neither team’s starter is for sure. It can be a battle of two rookies in Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa or veterans Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The Dolphins offensive line was absolutely terrible last year finishing dead last in run blocking and 28th in pass protection. They made some moves such as drafting Austin Jackson and signing Ereck Flowers, but the defensive line of the Chargers will get to the QB and RB and they win their 2nd game in a row, but just barely.
Prediction – Chargers: 30 Dolphins: 27 (4-3)
Week 8 – 11/1/20 vs Jacksonville Jaguars
This should be another win for the Chargers vs a team that has questions marks all over the roster and drama from the ownership to the field. This Jaguars team will be sporting a new starting QB, new cornerbacks, new defensive lineman, and maybe even a new running back by the time the season starts.
Just last year, the Chargers obliterated the Jaguars by 35 points, and this year’s team is worse than the team fielded last year with no more A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell. They made some receiver upgrades with the additions of Collin Johnson and Laviska Shenault Jr. in the draft, but overall this year seems like a rebuilding year.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if they end up with a top 3 draft pick and go with a new QB. In addition, the Jaguars have really struggled with west coast teams in years past. Austin Ekeler will absolutely tear apart the defense just like last season where he racked up 213 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Easy third win in a row for the Bolts.
Prediction – Chargers 33 Jaguars: 14 (5-3)
Week 9 – 11/8/20 vs Oakland Raiders
Losing to the Chiefs is understandable, however, the Chargers’ division struggles have largely been an issue. They went completely winless last season in the division and prior to the 2018 season, the Chargers went 1-11 vs the division. Unfortunately, the division struggle continues and the Chargers struggle vs the improved Raiders.
They added a speedy deep threat in Henry Ruggs III, player types that the Chargers have struggled to contain in the past. They also added a top linebacker in Cory Littleton. Just like both games last season, it will go down to the wire, but similar to last season, the Raiders get the best of the Chargers in this game and bring their three-game winning streak to a halt.
Prediction – Raiders: 23 Chargers: 20 (5-4)
Week 10- BYE
Week 11 – 11/22/20 @ Denver Broncos
Mile High has not been kind to the Chargers. Since 2014, the Chargers have only won one game and often against Denver rosters that aren’t as talented as the Chargers one. The Broncos have two new weapons in KJ Hamler and Jerry Jeudy to terrify opposing defenses. This will also be a revenge game for former Chargers RB Melvin Gordon who has taken a number of shots at the Chargers since joining the Broncos.
Drew Lock is a hot candidate to have a breakout season this year. The Broncos also added a number of pieces on defense including A.J. Bouye and Jurrell Casey. In the Mile High City, this will be a tough matchup for the Chargers. It will be a low scoring battle as many games between the division foes have been but similar to the loss the Raiders, the Chargers will likely lose this one close.
Prediction – Broncos: 23 Chargers: 21 (5-5)
Week 12 – 11/29/20 @Buffalo Bills
The Bills are one of the more improved teams with the addition of a true #1 receiver. However, this is a matchup I believe the Chargers can thrive against. This will potentially be a revenge game depending on if Tyrod Taylor is the starting quarterback. The Bills will be coming off a bye so they will be rested and it’s another early game, so it won’t be easy. The Chargers have won four in a row vs the Bills and they make it five in a row. Hunter Henry will go off in this game and the Chargers churn out the clock with the run game as well. This is an upset in my books and kick starts a potential playoff push.
Prediction – Chargers: 26 Bills: 24 (6-5)
Week 13 – 12/6/20 vs New England Patriots
The Chargers have not beaten the Patriots in a looooooong time, and the last time they played, the outcome was extremely forgettable. However, this time a certain future Hall of Fame QB will not be taking the field leaving an excellent opportunity for the Chargers to break that losing streak.
Similar to the Chargers, the Patriots starter week 1 is unsure, but the options are much more attractive for the Chargers with Taylor and Herbert as opposed to the Patriots’ choices of Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.
While it is foolish to ever count out Bill Belichick, this team has lost a lot more than just Brady. Gone are also defensive leaders Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Danny Shelton. If the Patriots end up picking up a QB like Cam Newton, this prediction will definitely change. The secondary will have a field day, given the limited weapons the team currently possesses. While defensively, the Patriots are still equipped to be among the best in the league, the Chargers score enough points to win their 2nd game in a row to sweep the AFC East.
Prediction – Chargers: 20 Patriots: 13 (7-5)
Week 14 – 12/13/20 vs Atlanta Falcons
In a division with QBs like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, it is often forgotten how productive former MVP Matt Ryan has been in his career. You could argue the QB-RB-WR trio of Ryan, Todd Gurley, and Julio Jones is amongst the very best in the league if all healthy. The Falcons have been a very successful team in the month of December. The secondary of the Falcons is definitely rebuilding and Keenan Allen and Company could go off in a high scoring game. However, the Chargers will be outplayed significantly at the QB spot, and Matt Ryan leads the Falcons to a victory. I would love to be proven wrong, but this seems like a game the Chargers would fumble away after two hard-fought victories.
Prediction – Falcons: 30 Chargers: 24 (7-6)
Week 15 – 12/17/20 @ Oakland Raiders
This is a very short week for the Chargers against one of the most hostile crowds in the league. First time playing in the new Raiders stadium, the Chargers will come out flat and struggle. The defense is amongst the most improved units in the league for the Raiders. The Chargers’ struggles in the division continue and they lose a frustrating game to the Raiders. Josh Jacobs runs through the Chargers defense and churns out the clock, slowly wearing out the Chargers while the offense struggles
Prediction – Raiders: 24 Chargers: 17 (7-7)
Week 16 – 12/26/20 vs Denver Broncos
Back off a long week vs a division rival, the Chargers come out extremely strong on both sides of the ball with the defense getting to Drew Lock and the offense running through Ekeler. Division games are always close and this one is no different as Chris Harris Jr. leads the defensive effort to force at least two turnovers in this game against his former team. Chargers get their first, and unfortunately only division victory of the season in Week 16 as they continue to fight for the final playoff spot.
Prediction – Chargers: 23 Broncos: 16 (8-7)
Week 17 – 01/3/20 @Kansas City Chiefs
Arrowhead is as difficult a place to play for a number of reasons. It is hard enough going up against the best player in the NFL, but in that weather, and rowdy crowd, there are no favors. I believe the Chargers have to play a perfect game to pull off an upset. Due to there being only one playoff bye per conference now, the Chiefs still play their starters as they are competing with the Ravens for the best AFC Record. The Chargers defense makes some nice efforts, but the offense just isn’t able to do enough to keep up with the electrifying Chiefs offense and they end the season with a loss.
Prediction – Chiefs: 31 Chargers: 17 (8-8)
FINAL RECORD: 8-8
There are a lot of asterisks when predicting the season, the obvious one starting with who will be the QB. In addition, many of the teams on the schedule are unsure about their QB as well, so that will also affect the final outcomes.
Injuries have been a major issue with the Chargers, consistently losing top players for extended periods of time including Derwin James last year, and Joey Bosa and Hunter Henry the year before. If the Chargers can avoid those and Herbert ends up being better than most people expect, the Chargers could very well go 10-6 as opposed to 8-8. The Chargers often find themselves in games till the very end but end up letting it get away; if they can avoid that, they will most definitely be in the thick of the playoff race and maybe even the division.