Hey Seanny J: Will the Chargers still make the playoffs?

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The question is the air whether the Charger will make the playoffs. The team didn’t have a great start but will be hosting the Steeler for Sunday Night Football.  AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The question is the air whether the Charger will make the playoffs. The team didn’t have a great start but will be hosting the Steeler for Sunday Night Football. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The Chargers haven’t looked quite right in 2019. 

After finishing 12-4 and losing in the second round of the playoffs last season to the eventual champions in New England, expectations were sky high for Los Angeles’ newest team.  

Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon were returning to support the offense, and the defense that surrendered the eighth fewest points and ninth fewest yards last season was largely returning most of their impact players. 

Then, things started going wrong. 

Gordon took his contract holdout up until Week 4 of this season, returning only when his team found themselves at 2-2 after losses to Detroit and Houston. In preseason, All-Pro safety Derwin James needed surgery on his foot after suffering a stress-fracture in practice, which will hold him out until November. Neither of their high-quality tight ends have been able to stay healthy this season, as Hunter Henry and Virgil Green have been sidelined with injuries. 

The only constant has been Rivers, who has been about as good as you can expect him to be at 37 years old. Rivers has thrown for 1,465 yards, just a shade under 300 yards per game, seven touchdowns and four interceptions.  

Allen and running back Austin Ekeler have handled the majority of the work through the air. Allen has caught 38 passes for 470 yards and three scores, while Ekeler has 39 catches for 356 yards and three touchdowns. Ekeler, who is also the feature back, has also taken 59 carries for 227 yards and three scores. 

Ekeler had been relied on to handle the heaviest workload on the offense with Gordon holding out. With Gordon back, it looks like head coach Anthony Lynn will opt to split the workload between the two. In this past weekend’s loss to the Broncos, Ekeler had 18 touches to Gordon ‘s 16, with the majority of those touches coming on the ground for Gordon and through the air for Ekeler. 

Now with a 2-3 record, the Chargers don’t have much cushion to lose if they want to make it back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time since 2009. Unfortunately, the schedule doesn’t get much easier for Los Angeles. 

Tough road games with Tennessee, Chicago and Kansas City — along with so-called “home” games against Green Bay and Minnesota — will put the Chargers to the test.  

Being in the AFC West, it’s unlikely that the Chargers can give the Chiefs a run for the division title. However, if they want to make it as a wildcard team like in 2018, they have enough room to lose three games, four at the most.   

They couldn’t beat the 0-4 Denver Broncos in Los Angeles, and with the Bills, Raiders, Browns, Colts and Texans looking like the primary competitors for AFC wildcard spots, the outlook is bleak for the Chargers. 

There is some silver lining. Gordon’s return adds another weapon to the offense, and when James returns it could breathe new life into the defense, which has been middle-of-the-pack in 2019.  

Next Sunday, the Chargers will host the Steelers for Sunday Night Football. If they can’t take care of business in that game, I give them no shot at making the playoffs.  


Sean Janos is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sean.janos@uconn.edu. He tweets @seanjanos.

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