Can the Los Angeles Chargers Upset the Chiefs? Expert Sees Slim Shot at AFC West Crown

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Jim Harbaugh has been a turnaround artist at each stop of his coaching career. Los Angeles Chargers fans are expecting the same to happen this time around. But can they look forward to knocking the back-to-back Super Bowl champions from their perch atop the AFC West?

According to Pro Football Focus’ NFL Analyst, Trevor Sikkema, they have only a small chance of doing that.

“The Kansas City Chiefs have won the AFC West eight years in a row dating back to 2016,” Sikkema writes, “Tack on the fact that they’re back-to-back champions going for a three-peat, and it’s highly unlikely anyone in their division stands in their way. But, new Chargers head coach, Jim Harbaugh, has won at every level and at every stop he’s been at since his days as head coach of the San Diego Toreros. He also has one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Justin Herbert to kick off his Los Angeles tenure. Head coach and quarterback mean a lot in this league, and the Chargers have two you want to bet on.”

Los Angeles Chargers Chances To Dethrone Chiefs

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
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Ironically, Sikkema doesn’t give much context as to why the Chargers can’t do it, other than the Chiefs’ track record of success to this point. Their track record is undeniable, but all dynasties dip and others fall off completely. While the latter is unlikely, with a healthy Patrick Mahomes and Andy Ried still at the helm, the Chiefs are treading on the unprecedented territory of a third Lombardi in a row.

It was nearly 20 years since enough went right for a team to win two in a row and no team has ever three-peated. But that said five of the seven teams to go back-to-back won their respective division the next season.

Harbaugh’s Legacy Doesn’t Ensure a Year-One Turnaround

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers-OTA
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While Harbaugh’s reputation as a turnaround artist is cemented, the lore is bigger than the results. San Diego actually lost one more game in his first season. Stanford took two seasons before posting a winning record with Harbaugh as coach. He did take a 5-7 Michigan team and made them 10-3 the next year, but the program struggled to rise to the for years before finally earning national relevance in his final two seasons with the team.

The most dramatic turnaround was his pro debut with the San Francisco 49ers. They went 13-3 a year after going 6-10 and pushed their newfound glory to the NFC Championship Game, but faced no legitimate challenger to the NFC West crown as the Chargers will certainly face in the Kansas City Chiefs.

The hope is that the Chargers easy schedule will give them a leg up, but in order for the Chargers to end up at the top of the standings, they will need to take at least one game from the Chiefs this season. A feat they have failed to achieve since September of 2021. The Chargers haven’t swept a season series with the Chiefs since 2013.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at San Diego Chargers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports