After winning yet another Super Bowl title, the New England Patriots enter the 2017 NFL season as AFC favorites. If the Patriots don’t reach the Super Bowl, perhaps it’ll be Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers or Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders.
Or, maybe, it’ll be Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
“I really like the Chargers,” CBSSports.com senior NFL writer Will Brinson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I think the Chargers are going to be a much better team than people think. To me, their defense is capable of making the leap, so to speak, in that you have guys like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram locked in and ready to roll. They’re switching to a 4-3, but I think their personnel might fit it better. Offensively, they finally put some talent in front of Philip Rivers. Mike Williams is a red flag, but they have Keenan Allen, who has to stay healthy, and a lot of depth at the skill positions. They’re a sleeper to watch in the AFC.”
By sleeper, Brinson doesn’t mean go 9-7 and steal a playoff spot; he means going 11-5 and making a deep playoff run.
“I think AFC Championship is on the table, at the very least,” Brinson said. “And look, there is a fine line between 9-7 and 11-5. They have been one of the most unlucky teams in football for the last two or three years. These one-score games that they lose in, the injuries that they’ve dealt with – maybe that’s culture and maybe that’s an internal issue more so than it is luck, but I think injuries and close games do tend to even out. I think the Chargers are due to get some of that good luck their way.”
San Diego is 9-23 over the last two seasons and hasn’t finished with double-digit wins since 2009. Still, Brinson believes that the Chargers playing this season in the StubHub Center – a 30,000-seat soccer stadium – will be good for them.
“I kind of feel like that’s going to be good mojo,” he said. “It’s going to be loud, it’s not going to feel depressing, there’s not going to be the weight of leaving San Diego hanging over their heads, Philip Rivers remains one of the best quarterbacks who doesn’t get his due as a potential Hall of Famer – I just think there’s major-league sleeper talent. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chargers won 10+ games and made a deep run at all.”