In 2020, rookie Justin Herbert took over at QB for the Los Angeles Chargers in their second game. They immediately went 0-6 in one score games.
It was fashionable to blame coach Anthony Lynn for these failures as Herbert put up great numbers. Record in one score games regresses to the mean of 0.500, but Lynn was putting this prediction to the test. For example, he called a run play with :24 left in the game and no timeouts against the Bills.
The Chargers finished the season 4-0 in one score games, as even Lynn couldn’t defeat the forces of regression. This didn’t help his job security though, as he got fired after a 7-9 record.
As Brandon Staley takes over as head coach, expectations are high for the Chargers in 2021. The biggest reason is Herbert as he enters his second year. In 2020, he posted a 67% completion percentage, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
While these are remarkable numbers for a rookie, there are some worrying signs. For pass offense, I look at success rate on pass plays after my adjustments for opponent. In 2020, the Chargers ranked 20th.
In the Football Outsiders Almanac, Derrik Klassen notes that while second year QBs often make a jump, this is usually because of mediocrity in their rookie years. This doesn’t apply to Herbert.
Moreover, the Chargers have big question marks on defense. Staley led the Rams to a resurgence on defense in 2020, a coaching performance that led his new head coaching gig. But this was a one year sample size in Staley’s first year as an NFL coordinator.
This off season, the Chargers lost CB Casey Hayward Jr, a stalwart in their secondary the past 5 seasons. They expect to replace him with second round draft pick Asante Samuel Jr. from Florida State. CB Michael Davis and Chris Harris Jr. return, but the latter is 32 years old and past his prime.
The Chargers do get Derwin James back this season. The safety excelled in all aspects of the game as a rookie in 2018. However, he played only 299 snaps in 2019 and missed all of 2020 due to injury.
I intended to focus this newsletter on the Chargers at Washington in week 1. My predictions like Washington by 1.2 points, and I talked about betting Washington +1 on FanDuel’s Covering the Spread podcast this week.
However, the market has shifted to favoring Washington by 1.5 points. With no value, I can’t suggest that game anymore. That would be more shitty than pouring Bud Light down the throat of a beer aficionado.
This market move suggests a downgrade on the Chargers. However, their win total hasn’t budged (9.5 wins, +110 to go over on FanDuel). This discrepancy might make sense if a key player like Herbert were out for the Washington game. However, the Chargers have no key injuries.
Normally, I would never suggest betting a mature win totals market right now. But due to the large line movement in another strong market, I like the Chargers under 9.5 wins, -110 on DraftKings.
Sports betting with a PhD edge
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