Despite the Same Record, Broncos & Chargers are Trending in Opposite Directions in Playoff Odds
Over the last two weeks, Los Angeles Chargers' QB Justin Herbert has gone 47-of-77 passing for 611 yards and seven touchdowns, while being sacked four times. The former Oregon Duck has also invigorated the Chargers' offense, going toe-to-toe with the NFL’s best teams.
The Chargers' have lost four games to the postseason-bound Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and New Orleans Saints by five points or less.
Because of the Chargers' recent surge led by Herbert, Football Outsiders has revealed that Los Angeles is vastly ahead of the Denver Broncos in playoff probability. As it currently sits, per Football Outsiders, the Chargers have a 26.1% likelihood of making the playoffs compared to the Broncos at 5.2%.
This isn’t the Chargers of old that never seemed to live up to expectations. Instead, Los Angeles is quickly bridging the gap that Denver has attempted to duplicate against the World Champion Chiefs.
Instead of drafting speed to fight fire with fire, as the Broncos did, the Chargers seem to be creating a new identity behind the arm of a rookie quarterback who’s showing improvement in each game. The 6-foot-6, 236-pound signal-caller from Oregon is already living up to his No. 6 overall draft pedigree.
After the Broncos' 10th straight loss to the Chiefs in Week 7, the blame game and finger-pointing has begun. Following Denver's bad loss to Kansas City, reports surfaced of post-game outbursts between players in the locker-room, in addition to criticism from head coach Vic Fangio regarding the Broncos’ offense.
Some feel that QB Drew Lock’s lack of progress in the 2020 season is a tell-tale sign that the former second-round draft pick is not the franchise QB that Broncos Country has been waiting for. Others wonder whether offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s lack of creativity with the scheme has hindered the second-year signal-caller's ability to develop.
After all, wasn’t Shurmur’s spread offense supposed to lead Lock and the Broncos' playmakers including tight end Noah Fant, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, and running back Phillip Lindsay to the promised land?
Over the last two weeks, Lock has gone 34-of-64 passing for 443 yards, with four interceptions, while being sacked five times. His sloppy footwork and inability to go through his progressions have led to a palpable decline in play since returning from injury against the Patriots in Week 6.
Meanwhile, a new quarterback has emerged in the AFC-West that was originally on GM John Elway’s radar two years ago. The Chargers' first-rounder has the entire NFL buzzing right now.
Sure, Lock hasn’t had the opportunity to play in every game of this season, nor did he have a traditional offseason to prepare with Shurmur in a new scheme. But neither did Herbert, and the tale of the tape doesn’t lie.
So, while the Broncos and Chargers may have the same 2-4 record heading into Week 8's divisional matchup, Los Angeles' trajectory has eclipsed the Broncos, and it boils down to the quarterback position as it so often does.