After nearly making the postseason last year despite an 0-4 start, the Los Angeles Chargers have the makings of a trendy dark-horse pick to make the playoffs. In fact, they have everything they need to win the AFC West, which might be the most wide-open division in the NFL.
Between quarterback Philip Rivers, skill-position talent like Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry and one of the NFL’s better pass-protecting lines, the Bolts are stacked on offense. They also tout arguably the league’s best one-two pass-rushing punch in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa, not to mention one of the league’s best secondaries.
Probably not. New England’s mostly shopped in the bargain bin with wide receivers and gotten excellent production from players like Edelman and Wes Welker for a fraction of their actual value. (Welker did get one franchise tag after his initial five-year deal expired.) From outside the organization, they’ve targeted restricted free agents like Welker, Hogan and Emmanuel Sanders, and made modest short-term commitments to Brandon LaFell and Brandon Lloyd. They’ve let players like Deion Branch, David Givens and now Cooks leave in lieu of paying them market-value deals, picking up first-rounders for Branch and Cooks in the process.
The one notable exception, of course, is Randy Moss. The Patriots traded for Moss on the cheap, sending a fourth-rounder to the Raiders while convincing Moss to sign a one-year, $2.5 million deal to play with Brady. Moss promptly delivered one of the best seasons by a wide receiver in league history.
But what if the problem isn’t the ever-changing menagerie of receivers in Baltimore
In 2017, Flacco passed for the fewest yards (3,141) in a 16-game season since his rookie year. He wasn’t substantially better in 2016, when he threw for over 4,000 yards but managed just 20 touchdowns and a passer rating of 83.5.
Flacco hasn’t posted a passer rating north of 90 since 2014. He’s never topped 95 in his 10 NFL seasons.
In reality, the Ravens have been living their worst-case scenario for the past three years. They’re a fringe contender largely because they’ve tied up a substantial percentage of their salary cap in an average quarterback who had one magical postseason six years ago.