2019 NFL Power Rankings:
No. 8 Los Angeles Chargers
I'm all for players getting their money. Honestly, I'm all for these dudes who sacrifice their body and sanity for the entertainment of millions robbing these billionaire owners blind. With that said, Melvin Gordon's decision to hold out mystified me. Running backs typically don't last in a league called Not For Long. That's universally understood. When I say don't last long, I mean 2.57 years -- the shortest career span in the league. So, I get it. You're risking injury, playing a position in which you get pounded every time you touch the football. You're in the final year of a deal that's going to net you $5.6 million, and you're a Pro Bowl player. Let's keep it real, however. Gordon is not Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley nor Ezekiel Elliott -- the league's highest-paid running backs. He's not even Christian McCaffery, Kareem Hunt, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook nor David Johnson. The $10-11 million per year the Chargers offered sounds about right. Take it, bruv.
With Gordon out, the Chargers' running game hasn't missed a beat. Maybe that's why he's decided to end the holdout -- smart move. Through the NFL's first three weeks, Los Angeles ranks fifth in yards per carry (5.5), and Austin Ekeler, Gordon's fill-in, has 20 receptions for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It also helps that Ekeler's backup, Justin Jackson, is averaging an eye-popping 7.9 yards per carry at the moment. We're not saying the combination of Jackson and Ekeler are equivalent to Gordon. That'd be a massive lie. Just highlighting the fact that they've been damn good in their roles so far this season.
There are three things promised in life. Death, taxes and magnificent performances from quarterback by day/babymaker by night Philip Rivers. The trash-talkin' gunslinger is easily my favorite quarterback and is nowhere near the Chargers' biggest problem as they've started the season 1-2. Now, of course, we're all waiting for Mike Williams to wake up and become the fantasy God we know he could be, but the combination of Rivers and Keenan Allen has been nothing short of spectacular. So far, the two have hooked up for 29 receptions for 404 yards and three touchdowns, including one Allen celebrated with J.R. Smith. The offense isn't the problem. The scoreboard will start working. Los Angeles just ran into three tough customers to open the season.
Let me repeat: Los Angeles ran into three tough customers to open the season. The defense also hasn't been an issue. It gave up 24 points in the Week 1 victory over Indianapolis. Yielded a mere 13 to an undefeated Detroit team and gave up 27 points against a loaded Houston offense. For a unit that lost one of the league's best and most versatile defenders in Derwin James, it has been rather decent. As Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa and the secondary settle in, the defense should return to its normal stinginess. Be patient.
Offensive Players to Watch: Melvin Gordon, Hunter Henry (when he’s healthy), Mike Williams
Defensive Players to Watch: Justin Jones, Kyzir White, Michael Davis, Roderic Teamer.
Fantasy Players to Watch: Austin Ekeler, Melvin Gordon, Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Chargers D/ST
Verdict: After a death march in the team’s first three games, the schedule gets much easier. Los Angles has a Week 4 meeting with tanking Miami, then faces struggling Denver twice, Mason Rudolph and the Steelers, Marcus Mariota’s Titans and the Raiders twice. Things will improve and improve pretty quickly. 10-6.