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Over the past week, the Los Angeles Chargers have not looked like the same team that was taking the field the first few weeks of the season. Outside of just the fact that they have managed to string together a few wins in a row, the team looks as if they were somehow reinvigorated on both sides of the ball. Some would say that it is just the bumps of an NFL season, leading them to believe that the Chargers were eventually going to get here after weathering an early adjustment period. Some are still in shock of what they are seeing, and it has them and many others asking, “Are the Chargers a new team?"
Well, like Allen Iverson, here is “the answer." Yes and no. It seems complicated at first glance, but it really isn’t that complex at all. Things will become a bit clearer as we move on, revealing some new things, but mostly highlighting some old habits that make the Chargers the Chargers, San Diego, Los Angeles, or otherwise.
When first thinking about the question, "Are the Chargers a new team?" the immediate answer is yes. Looking at the Chargers over the first few weeks, they weren’t quite a shell of the team we see now. However, they hadn’t fully developed their sea legs.
Something immediately sticks out when looking at the final scores, 24-21, 17-19, 24-10, 26-24. All, if not most of, their losses this season came by small margins, two to three points to be exact. This says quite a few things. The first is that they weren’t that far off, meaning if they made a big play here or there on one side of the ball, or stopped a big play on defense, then they probably would have won that game. This works in tandem with the next thing these close scores indicate: they weren't issues that couldn’t be fixed, or basically flaws that weren’t fatal.
More than likely, what was going on was a lack of chemistry and camaraderie, something common in the beginning of NFL seasons, especially with as much turnover and change that free agency has allowed. A second factor in this chemistry issue could be the fact that the team had to adjust to a new “home stadium” or in reality, to not having a home stadium. This is indicated, as the building they inhabit has more often than not been mostly jerseys of the opposite teams thus far in the games they have played.
Using similar logic, if you look at the past two weeks, those slight changes or comforts within the team have proven to be exponentially fruitful. One could say that after about a month of playing games or playing in their new home, the Chargers were once again comfortable or simply settled in. This has been evident in their play.
It is one thing to win games, similarly as it is to lose them, but as mentioned earlier, when teams are constantly losing close games, it is usually not associated with skill or game plan. Rather, it is something associated with the intangibles of the team. This is also the case in winning, as the winning team shows it has stronger intangibles than the losing team, if nothing but for at least during that moment, that play, or that game.
This has been the case with the Chargers over the past few weeks. Not only having the mental fortitude and toughness to pull out a very close win over the upticking Oakland Raiders, but to then shut out the Denver Broncos, who have not been shut out in almost a century. With the former in mind, and answering the question of “Are the Chargers a new team?" the answer is an unequivocal yes, but that it is just the regular season.
When it comes to the NFL postseason, that is a different monster, as is every major sports postseason. With that in mind, the answer to the question of “Are the Chargers a new team?” changes to an unequivocal no. That is the case for many reasons, but more so because we have never seen the Chargers have great postseason success under Rivers as the passer.
A second notion for this reasoning is that even when looking at this year — and although their losses may outweigh their wins, which were pretty decent — right now and overall, they would just be considered average. This is on par with where they seem to finish in a given season, save for a couple of outliers on either end (5-11, 4-12, 11-5, 14-2, 13-3), the most of Rivers' seasons have finished just average, exactly or hovering around 8-8.
Lastly, I would say no because the Chargers are similar to the Cowboys in this notion. They are a NFL personification of “Murphy’s Law." This law in essence says that “what can go wrong, will go wrong," and while that definitely may be self-inflicted more often than not for the Cowboys, it is inevitably also the case of the Chargers, self-inflicted or not. From big injury to freaky player scenario (see Manti Te'o), the Chargers have always been an epicenter for weirdness.
This season isn’t that different, except now it is literally all around them. The Chargers moved to L.A. this season, and it hasn’t been the smoothest transition. They play in what doubles as a soccer stadium and rarely has what anybody would call a home field advantage. Even in a transplant, fair weather city like L.A., what is happening to the Chargers should not be happening. Now albeit this isn’t specifically “on field," but it affects the on field play, and it speaks to the fact that if it can go wrong, it will when it’s the Chargers. Those are a few of the reasons why no, the Chargers aren’t exactly a completely new team.
To conclude, the L.A. Chargers have the ability to make some noise, as it seems they are putting things together at the right time. The next question, however, is whether we believe they will do so, and I think we all know that answer. Perhaps they will prove us wrong, but until then, we will just keep celebrating Philip Rivers bolo ties. At least that’ll give Chargers fans something to get excited about.