Whisper it quietly, or you might startle them, but the LA Chargers have a chance to make the play-offs. Back-to-back wins over Buffalo and Dallas have shoved the Bolts firmly in the to the wildcard mix, perhaps even the AFC West title picture if Kansas City keep losing.
It all appears to be falling in to place for Anthony Lynn’s boys and the reason why Chargers fans are starting to get carried away when it comes to the play-offs is the last two performances. Firstly, LA ran up 50 points in a game for the first time in nearly 10 years with a 54-24 demolition of the Bills.
They then follow that up with a dominant 28-6 win at Dallas as they stole the show on Thanksgiving. There can be no doubt that these were two of the most complete performances the Chargers have put together since they last reached the play-offs in 2013.
Optimism is within the fan base, a remarkable turnaround from the 0-4 start to the season, while they are also the darlings of some pundits tipping them to charge in to the play-offs. The NFL power rankings has them in the top-10 for the first time I can remember in a while, dubbing them the best in the West right now.
So where has all this optimism, all the play-off talk come from, just three weeks removed from discussing how the season was nearly over after the loss to Jacksonville? The simple answer is the offence.
The Chargers defence has been rolling all season and while it has raised its games in the past two matches, crushing Nathan Peterman and Dak Prescott, it is the offence that has finally come to the party.
Philip Rivers has finally cut loose, meaning the team carry the duel threat element they have been missing for most of the campaign. No.17 threw for over 400 yards against the Cowboys, putting on an absolute clinic as he found three targets for touchdowns.
the majority of Chargers fans are realistic enough to understand the Rivers era can not continue for much longer and that an heir to the thrown needs to be selected in the next draft. His struggles earlier in the year suggested some supporters did not want to see him back for 2018 but those opinions must have changed in the last two weeks.
The decision to put the game on Rivers more has not lead to significantly fewer snaps for running backs Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler, who had 27 carries combined at Dallas, while Rivers threw 33 passes. Lynn is still committed to the run game, especially when ahead late in games, but needed to allow Rivers to run the show more how he wanted to get the best out of him.
He has been ably helped by Keenan Allen, who looked a yard shy of his best before Week 11 and has since registered 331 yards and three touchdowns, his effort against Dallas being a particular highlight on Turkey Day.
Ekeler continues to develop as well and the confidence these guys have is rubbing off on those around them, helping Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams to raise their games.
On the defensive side of the ball, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram continue to be monsters, particular Bosa, who had a hand in nearly every one of Peterman’s interceptions during the game against Buffalo. You are seeing others make big plays now too, Desmond King recording a pick-6 against Dallas, while Tenny Palepoi got a sack in the same game.
The Chargers are like a sugar rush right now, providing a high we hope will never come to an end. However, here is a dose of realism for all those expecting to see the Bolts storm the play-offs.
Let’s start with the fact they still have a losing record of 5-6. You could argue they are unlucky to have a losing record given how some of the defeats have come about but there it is in black and white.
Then we look at the kicking situation. Nick Novak picked up an injury in the loss to Dallas, which might turn out to be a blessing in disguise given how bad he’s been, meaning the Bolts could be on to their third kicker by the time they face Cleveland on Sunday.
They might have blown away the Bills and the Cowboys but if they are to make the play-offs you can bet they are going to have to win a few tight games down the stretch, games when they will need a good kicker. At the minute, the Bolts have the worst field goal conversion rate in the NFL.
Finally, let’s remember this is the Chargers, a team renown for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
I hope I’m wrong about the majority of the last four paragraphs but the growing levels of expectations need reining in slightly. Charger fans, let’s take this journey one game at a time, starting against the winless Browns, a team whose only victory of last season came against, well, do I really need to tell you!