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How the Chargers Could Make the Playoffs in 2016

Chargers playoffs Harsha Talkad via


With the power of the AFC West, the San Diego Chargers finding themselves in the playoffs is a long shot, but it could definitely happen. San Diego always comes into the year with expectations all over the place, but this season may be the year that they have things together. That may not be saying much, it has been pretty ugly in recent years. Here are a few things that could burst the Chargers into the 2016 playoff scene.

The health of the team

Health is something that absolutely crushed this team last year. More than any position, the offensive line endured the most injuries. To put that in perspective, the there were 24 different lineup combinations on the offensive line throughout last season. Melvin Gordon was hurt at one point, and Keenan Allen missed the last half of the year. It seemed like there wasn’t a game that went by without a known name getting injured.

You can’t stay fully healthy as a team throughout an entire year, it just won’t happen. But, many teams that find themselves in the playoffs stay relatively healthy at their key positions. With that being said, it is easy to assume that the Chargers will be more healthy this year than they were last, considering last year was just an absolute spell of bad luck. That’s a positive.

Melvin Gordon bouncing back

Whether it was the injury to Gordon or the injury to the guys that are supposed to block for him, Melvin Gordon struggled his rookie year. Fellow rookie Todd Gurley stole the show as Gordon went down to many people as a bust, recording a lowly 641 rushing yards and never finding the end zone.

Coming into this season, Melvin Gordon plays a huge role in the Chargers season and whether they have any shot of making the playoffs. Philip Rivers can’t throw the ball 45 times a game. It just doesn’t work that way. Defenses didn’t have to worry about any type of running game from San Diego last year, and that has to change.

With the offensive line back to health and Keenan Allen back on the field, Melvin Gordon should have a good chance at a bounce back year. Everything will be set in line for him to do it, now it’s his job to get it done.

Jason Verrett becoming elite, and the other corners helping him do that

Jason Verrett has shown flashes of being one of the best corners in the NFL in his first two years. He comes into his 3rd year with expectations that he could continue to make the leap he made last year and become truly elite.

Verrett becoming the player he can be may not even rely solely on his skill, but the skill of the other corners playing with him. They have to do their job and help him out. The secondary has shown signs of improvement in the secondary, mostly when they held the Arizona Cardinals to 3 points and picked off their quarterbacks twice. and Chargers faithful can only hope that keeps up.

Jason Verrett, Brandon Flowers, and Casey Hayward all need to step up this year if the Chargers want to have a defense worthy of the playoffs, especially with the loss of Eric Weddle to the Baltimore Ravens. Verrett has to be elite, and these other guys have to hold down their role to allow him to do that.

Philip Rivers using his weapons to take him to the playoffs again

This is probably the aspect most fans can count on happening more than anything. Philip Rivers has never had weapons like this, and will need to make sure he gets everyone involved, as Keenan Allen will likely be double teamed in an attempt to take him out of the game.

Obviously, he has Allen to throw to as well, who is the clear cut best receiver on this team. The addition of  Travis Benjamin allows the Chargers to take the top off of defenses and is expected to be the receiver to help take the attention off of Allen. New addition James Jones is expected to provide a spark as well. Don’t forget Danny Woodhead coming out of the backfield as a major threat either.

Rivers has many weapons at his disposal this year, and it will be his job to spread the ball around. If this happens, it will be a huge step forward in the Chargers hopes of the playoffs in 2016.

Joey Bosa signing

The story of the offseason has been the 3rd overall pick holding out on his contract, who would certainly help this defense. The pass rush is a key concern this year, which is why Joey Bosa was selected so early in the draft.

As of now, it doesn’t look like Joey Bosa is planning on signing. If the Chargers want a chance at the playoffs this season, he is a key part of it. He will provide a much needed pass rush to compliment the secondary. Without him, the pass rush will be pedestrian and force the San Diego defensive backs to remain in coverage longer.

San Diego fans can only hope he signs, as he provides a huge lift to this defense. For now though, it’s just a waiting game.

AFC West teams not living up to expectations

The Raiders, Broncos, and Chiefs all have high expectations for this season, and each team has a real chance to make the playoffs or win the division. The Chargers are on a lower tier than the rest of the division, but each team has questions marks.

The Raiders are expected to make a huge leap this year with with the continued development of Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Kahlil MackAll three primed to be future stars, but are also very young. The Raiders could very well make a leap in terms of their young talent, but it may not translate to wins in 2016.

The Chiefs have a very solid defense. Their offense is the question. Who knows if Alex Smith can repeat his performance from last season, and Jamaal Charles could very well get hurt again. Outside of Jeremy Maclin, Kansas City does not have much of a threat at receiver. This team could be great, but they could also be a very big disappointment.

The Broncos come in to 2016 with huge quarterback issues. It’s starting to look like Mark Sanchez may not even make the roster. The defense is great, but this offense is very dependent on guys like Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib to keep the offense in position to win without having to score too much. The defending champs could take a huge step back in the post Peyton Mannning era.

There are so many things that need to happen for San Diego to make the playoffs, but don’t count them out. They are a rebuilding team on the rise, and Philip Rivers will always do anything in his power to get this team to the next level. We’ll find out in the coming months if this is the year he has the talent around him to get it done and take the next step towards a playoff berth.