- The Chargers might have the best defense in the NFL, and in a wide-open AFC West, their elite pass rush is what could lead them into the playoffs.
Here at SI Gambling, we are going to unveil our NFL betting experts’ win total previews for all 32 NFL teams. Make sure to check out all of them, as well as the rest of our gambling content, at si.com/gambling.
Chargers 2018 win total: 9 (-175 over, +155 under)
Chargers 2017 record: 9-7
Key offseason acquisitions: C Mike Pouncey, K Caleb Sturgis, CB Jaylen Watkins, TE Virgil Green, QB Geno Smith
Key offseason losses: S Tre Boston, C Matt Slauson, DE Jeremiah Attaochu, LB Korey Toomer, G Kenny Wiggins, TE Antonio Gates
Five things to keep in mind before betting the Chargers’ win total
1. This might be the best defense in football. More than any other time in the sport’s existence, putting pressure on the quarterback is paramount. The Chargers are going to do that, possibly with more regularity than any team in the league. They were fifth in the league in both sacks and sack rate last year, led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, who combined for 23 sacks. At 29 years old, Ingram has likely reached his peak, but Bosa just turned 23 in July. There’s another gear or two here, and when he finds it this pass rush will be fearsome.
2. Philip Rivers is going to keep doing his thing. He hasn’t thrown for fewer than 4,200 yards, 7.2 yards per attempt or 29 touchdowns since 2012. The faces around him have changed, due to personnel movement and injuries, but Rivers has kept up his high level of performance no matter who his teammates are. Rivers isn’t just a quarterback who a team can win a Super Bowl with, but one capable of carrying his team to the Lombardi Trophy.
3. Having said that, this might be the best collection of skill-position talent Rivers has enjoyed since his first two seasons as the team’s starter, when LaDainian Tomlinson was still at the height of his powers. Melvin Gordon has developed into a workhorse running back, totaling nearly 1,600 yards from scrimmage, 58 receptions and 12 touchdowns last year. Keenan Allen is a true go-to receiver who’s as close to a sure thing for 100 receptions as possible, this side of Antonio Brown. The loss of Hunter Henry to a torn ACL is a major blow, but Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams round out what could be one of the best receiving groups in the league.
4. Offensive line has long been a bugaboo for the Chargers, but that might not be the case this year. The team went out this offseason and signed center Mike Pouncey to strengthen the interior of the line. With Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale anchoring either side of the line at tackle, they should be strong on the outside. Barksdale getting back healthy kicks Michael Schofield inside, who has spent most of the last three years playing tackle. The talent is in place for the Chargers to have a physical, bruising, athletic offense up front.
5. The Chargers are the only team in their division without a new quarterback or head coach. There’s something to be said for continuity, especially in a sport with a 16-game regular season. Remember, the Chargers started last year 0-4, losing three of those games by a combined eight points. This team was a couple of made field goals away from a division title last year, and it returns that personnel largely intact. A 10-win season isn’t a birthright for any team (other than the Patriots, of course) but the pieces are in place for the Chargers to get there this year.
PICK: OVER 9 wins