Few quarterbacks have come into the National Football League with more fanfare than the Los Angeles Chargers Justin Herbert. He has been compared to some of the best to ever play the game, including a young Dan Marino.
There is one stat that doesn’t add up in all the accolades handed to the first pick of the Chargers in the 2020 NFL draft … wins. Last year, while Hebert was earning offensive rookie of the year honors, the Chargers were home when the playoffs began … home in front of their televisions, that is, not hosting a postseason game.
While Herbert threw more touchdown passes than any rookie in history, 30, his team was 6-9 in his 15 starts. This season, the Chargers quarterback became the first in history to throw 30 or more touchdown passes in his first two seasons, but as we enter the final two weeks of the regular season Los Angeles is still looking from the outside at the NFL playoff field.
The Chargers are in that category known as “on the bubble''. Which needs to improve or they will be on the outs. Their 8-7 season mark this season has them in the eighth slot in the American Football Conference standings … seven AFC teams earn a playoff date.
Last week, the Chargers took a severe blow to their postseason hopes while losing as a two touchdown favorite to the talent-challenged Houston Texans. This loss followed an overtime defeat to AFC West Division leading Kansas City the prior week … a game the Chargers seemed in position to win, it would have been their second victory of the season over the Chiefs, only to allow the game to slip away late.
So, what do we make of this Los Angeles team?
They have the makings of a winner in personnel, and a head coach, Brandon Staley, who in his first season in the role has the respect of his players. This should be a winning combination.
Why isn’t it?
The Chargers are learning to win with their new quarterback after years of enjoying success with Philip Rivers. That success, unfortunately for the team and their fans, never rose to a level that included a Super Bowl appearance. Still, a lot of exciting football was staged by the Chargers who have a rich history of great quarterbacks all the way back to the early days of John Hadl and the success that followed with Hall of Fame member Dan Fouts.
If Herbert is to live up to their legacies, even exceed it with a Super Bowl win, he is going to have to win more games.
Perhaps what has been missing during his first two seasons is the ability to win a game when the motivational factors are not pitched in his favor. That is what truly separates great teams from the crowd, the ability to win games not only when expected, but to win when factors are working against their chances.
Last week, as crippling as the surprise loss to the Texans was, it was also in a spot where the Chargers were overconfident based on their opponent.
That is a bad thing for a team coming off a loss, the one to the Chiefs, and expecting an easy road win.
This week, back home, the Chargers are now confronted with a must win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive. Off back-to-back defeats Los Angeles will be taking nothing for granted.
Which, again, is bad news … but this time for their opponents, the Denver Broncos.
Qoxhi Picks: Los Angeles Chargers (-6½) over Denver Broncos