(CBSLA) — The Los Angeles Chargers, at 4-8, don’t have much hope of making the playoffs. They remain mathematically alive, but trail 10 other teams and are tied with three more for six spots in the AFC. A place in the playoffs is a long shot. And even a .500 finish — a best-case scenario this season — would be a failure after going 12-4 and making the playoffs in 2018.
This season could’ve unfolded much more like last season, when Chargers competed for an AFC West title. “This Chargers season has been so frustrating,” says CBS2 sports anchor Greg Wolf, “because this team has so much talent. And all eight losses for the Chargers have been by a touchdown or less. It could’ve been a very different season for this football team.”
Injuries have been an issue in many weeks. Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, Russell Okung and Melvin Ingram all missed time. Melvin Gordon held out the first month of the season and took a little playing time to get up to speed. But all teams go without key players for stretches during the season. The ones that find a way to win the close ones continue on to the postseason, those that don’t, well, don’t. And that falls back on leadership.
Philip Rivers, the Chargers longtime quarterback who is in the final year of his contract, has been steady in some ways this season. He’s averaging a solid 286.2 yards per game (sixth in the league), completing 64.7 percent of his passes and averaging 7.7 yards per catch. Rivers has tossed 17 touchdown passes. But he’s been careless in other ways. “Philip Rivers has been really loose with the football,” notes Wolf. “He’s had eight interceptions in the last three games. Outside of Jameis Winston, he has more picks (15) than anyone in the league this season.”
Those 15 interceptions ended drives and killed momentum. They put the Chargers defense back on the field. Regardless, the unit has played well overall, allowing 309.2 yards and 20.1 points per game, both top 10 in the NFL in those categories. But they too haven’t always stepped up at key moments. “I was really surprised their defense didn’t answer the call in Denver,” says Wolf. “They were facing a quarterback who has never played in this league before in Drew Lock, and they lose that football game. So that surprised me a little bit.” The stats belie the end result.
The Chargers will have another chance this week, when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars, another 4-8 team clinging to what may soon be a lost season. They’ll face another inexperienced quarterback in Gardner Minshew. The rookie has had his moments this season. Those include a 26-44, 374-yard, two-touchdown outing against the Carolina Panthers and a 22-34, 279-yard, three-touchdown showing against the New York Jets. “He’s going to start for them the rest of the year,” notes Wolf. “He could give them a little bit of a spark. But I think the Chargers just have too much.”
The Chargers offense, when clicking, can hang with any offense in the NFL. And this could be the week when it comes together, albeit a little late. ” I think it’s an important game for Philip Rivers,” observes Wolf. “I think he’s going to play a lot better. But also their running attack… Melvin Gordon has really showed up over the last four weeks of the season. Austin Ekeler is very effective, really as a pass-catcher as well, but out of the backfield for this football team.”
The Chargers should take down the Jaguars and stay alive for another week. According to Wolf, “I think the Chargers just have too much.” But they need to finish on the field.
The Chargers play the Jaguars Sunday @ 1:05 PT.