The 2023 NFL Season kicks off this Thursday, and there will be a lot of contenders for the Super Bowl trophy this season. In the AFC, the Chiefs, Bills, Bengals, Ravens, Jets, Chargers, Jaguars and Dolphins all have an excellent shot to make the playoffs, and contend for the title. The list is shorter in the NFC, but the Eagles, 49ers, Cowboys and even the Lions merit serious consideration. All 12 of these teams have odds shorter than 30-1, with the Chiefs (+600), Eagles (+750) and Bills (+900) rating as the clubs with the best percentage chance.
This season, I'm going to take a team with considerably longer odds. And that's the Los Angeles Chargers, at 25-1 odds (currently available at DraftKings, PointsBet and BetRivers). When we last saw Brandon Staley's men, they collapsed in the Wild Card round against Trevor Lawrence & the Jaguars. The Chargers were staked to a 27-0 lead, then improbably lost, 31-30, when they managed just 3 points after intermission, and gave up 11 points in the final 5:25, including a 36-yard game-deciding field goal as time expired.
Many called for coach Staley's head after that defeat, but Dean Spanos retained his coach. In the Draft, the Chargers addressed a major need when they selected WR Quentin Johnson from TCU. The 6'4" rookie (with an 82" wingspan) has impressed in camp with his ability to make explosive plays downfield. Last season, the Chargers were injury-ravaged, to say the least. WR Keenan Allen missed 7 games with a lingering hamstring issue; LB Joey Bosa was injured in Week 3, and suited up just five times. Mike Williams played 11 full games, but missed the Playoff game vs. Jacksonville. Even QB Justin Herbert suffered fractured rib cartilege in Week 2, and also tore his labrum in his left shoulder (which was surgically repaired after the season). He did play through his injuries, though, and finished 2nd in yardage (4739) and 3rd in completion percentage (68.2%). Notwithstanding a lot of bad injury luck, the Chargers still had a good season, and made the Playoffs. I expect them to take major strides this season, in Herbert's 4th season as a pro.
A primary reason I like the Chargers this season is that they brought in Kellen Moore to be offensive coordinator. In his 4-year tenure (2019-2022) as the OC for the Dallas Cowboys, his offense ranked among the Top 4 in the NFL in productivity. With Austin Ekeler in the backfield, Herbert under center, and a trio of wide receivers, Moore has all the talent he needs to make this offense hum. The Chargers defense is also solid, and will get a boost if ex-Pro Bowler JC Jackson returns to his 2021 form. Jackson was another of the injured Chargers last season, and definitely underwhelmed in his limited action on the field. He's targeting a September return, and hopes are high he plays like he did in New England.
As I stated above, this season is as wide-open as I can remember. And because it's so wide-open, I prefer to take a longer shot, rather than a team like, say, Buffalo with shorter odds. It's not that I think Los Angeles is a better team than Buffalo. But at 25-1 odds, I like its value more. And in the past, I've hit some big futures tickets (Virginia at 22-1 odds to win the NCAA Basketball title; the Washington Nationals at 18-1 odds to win the World Series). Take the Chargers to win the 2023 Super Bowl. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.