Los Angeles Chargers 2024 Predictions and Odds:

Love him or hate him, Jim Harbaugh is a hell of a football coach who knows how to build a winning team from the ground up. He did it at the University of San Diego, Stanford and Michigan, and he once took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl. He’s also going to win big with the Chargers, but how soon will it be? The skeptics will say he needs a year or two to rebuild, but it’s not fantasy to envision it happening this season. 

The Chargers have been talented underachievers for too many years, mostly because they were misled by a few clueless head coaches. Harbaugh has more than a clue and a proven plan to immediately turn around a 5-12 team that became a bad joke and slipped into the AFC West basement.

 

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Offense

Harbaugh has spent much of the summer praising the abilities of Justin Herbert, a 6-foot-6 quarterback who has done almost everything but win a playoff game. In four years, Herbert has passed for 17,223 yards and 114 touchdowns. He also owns a 30-32 record as a starter, and the Chargers blew 27-0 lead in a wild-card playoff loss at Jacksonville in his only postseason appearance. Herbert is highly unlikely to lead the league in passing yards this season, only because Harbaugh’s plan is to build the offensive line and establish a power running attack. 

The new backfield consists of tough runners Gus Edwards, JK Dobbins, rookie Kimani Vidal and fullback Ben Mason. Star receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams were shipped out, which is no big loss considering both were often injured. Herbert’s new primary targets — Josh Palmer, Quentin Johnston, DJ Chark and rookie Ladd McConkey — show a lot of potential. A line led by stud tackles Rashawn Slater and rookie Joe Alt, guard Zion Johnson and center Bradley Bozeman can bulldoze running lanes and protect the passer. To top it off, kicker Cameron Dicker made all 35 extra-point attempts and 31 of 33 field goals last season. This offense will punish defenses on the ground, which will help make Herbert a more effective passer.

Defense

The mission to win at the line of scrimmage also applies to the defense. But, as usual, a critical key will be keeping edge rushers Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack healthy and on the field. Mack, who had 17 sacks last season, and Bosa sound reenergized by Harbaugh’s leadership. 

While the Chargers’ changes included the departure of inside linebacker Eric Kendricks, there is lots of talent on all three levels of the defense for new coordinator Jesse Minter, who Harbaugh brought from Michigan. Look for newcomers Denzel Perryman and Junior Colson, a third-round pick who starred for the Wolverines, to play major roles as linebackers. The secondary will be led by All-Pro safety Derwin James and corner Asante Samuel Jr. 

Last year’s statistics are irrelevant. A few veteran stars remain, but this is a new-look defense, and in no way is it the same clumsy unit that surrendered 63 points to the Raiders in a December debacle.

Outlook

Most of the nerds who handicap solely by the numbers and don’t understand situational football strategy probably still contend that Brandon Staley was a misunderstood genius. Staley made foolish decisions, was a weak leader and finally was fired a year too late. Harbaugh is conservative by nature, sometimes to a frustrating extent, but his teams are fundamentally sound and rarely lose by making dumb mistakes — in other words, the Chargers will become the opposite of what they were under Staley and previous coach Anthony Lynn. A last-place schedule that includes Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee, Tampa Bay and New England should help Harbaugh overachieve in LA.


Los Angeles Chargers Pick: Over 8.5 Wins