Tomlinson: Chargers 'on paper' are SB title contenders


The star-studded Rams aren't the only Los Angeles organization facing high expectations in 2018.

Despite falling just shy of the playoffs last year, the Chargers have been anointed the AFC West's "team to beat" by none other than Broncos legend John Elway.

After late-game kicking woes contributed to an 0-4 start, Anthony Lynn's squad coalesced down the stretch, winning six of the final seven games with a high-octane offense and a swarming defense.

Now that they've added safety Derwin James and linebacker Uchenna Nwosu in the draft, the Bolts' roster stacks up against any in the AFC.

Even with the unfortunate loss of promising tight end Hunter Henry, franchise legend and NFL Network analyst LaDainian Tomlinson understands why the talent-laden Chargers have Super Bowl aspirations for the upcoming season.

"When you look at this team on paper, it's not hard to see why," Tomlinson offered on Wednesday's edition of NFL Total Access, "because you do have the best quarterback in the division and one of the best in the National Football League. The second thing is that defense is going to be nasty again.

"You keep Jason Verrett healthy at the corner position, him and Casey Hayward together along with those defensive ends that we have and then you've got the young rookie Derwin James. There's a lot of reasons to like the Los Angeles Chargers. And then, I forgot about the wide receiver position. We only have one of the best wide receivers in all of the game in Keenan Allen."

No strangers to offseason hype, the Chargers have been done in by botched field goals, fourth-quarter collapses and an inordinate number of injuries to key players in recent seasons.

They are sitting pretty this year, however, with two AFC West clubs breaking in new starting quarterbacks (Chiefs, Broncos) and the other adjusting to a new coach (Raiders). That said, Lynn is doing his best to tamp down lofty expectations in Los Angeles.

"That's scary," Lynn told The MMQB's Albert Breer this week. "I don't know why everybody wants to crown us all of the sudden. ... We like our team, we really do. But right now, who in the hell doesn't like their team? Everyone likes their team right now."

Last year's Jaguars used a strong 2016 finish and an active offseason as a springboard to a deep playoff run. Might this year's Chargers pull off a similar feat?

Even an avowed Bolts booster such as Tomlinson would acknowledge the need to stay healthy, convert clutch kicks and maintain fourth-quarter leads if this team is going to flirt with the promised land. It's no easy prospect to overtake a Chiefs outfit that has won the last eight matchups between the two division rivals.