Before this NFL season, the Los Angeles Chargers had the look of a team with plenty of talent waiting to take the next step. Much of 2018 has seen them live up to that potential as the Bolts are all but locks for the playoffs.
At 8-3, the Chargers are succeeding somewhat in the shadow of the Los Angeles Rams and tailback Melvin Gordon has been a big part of it.
Unfortunately with a lot of football left to play in the regular season, LA could be without the former Wisconsin Badger for a few crucial weeks.
Major Loss in a Blowout Win
The Chargers dismantled the visiting Arizona Cardinals Sunday, but Gordon sustained a lower body injury during the 45-10 romp.
An MRI later that evening revealed Gordon had suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain which should put him out for a “few weeks”.
Gordon has established himself as a premier NFL running back and one of the most productive backs in the NFL. In 10 games started this season, he’s rushed for 802 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 44 balls for 453 yards and four scores.
According to most reports, Gordon is fully expected to return before the postseason, but the timing couldn’t be worse for the Bolts.
The Chargers will turn to Austin Ekeler to fill Gordon’s shoes and things could honestly be a lot worse. In just his second NFL season Ekeler’s rushed for 409 yards on 70 carries and caught 32 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
While LA has a firm grip on the top Wild Card spot in the AFC, its last five games are against teams either leading their division or classified as “in the hunt” for the playoffs.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1), Cincinnati Bengals (5-6), Kansas City Chiefs (9-2), Baltimore Ravens (6-5) and Denver Broncos (5-6) on their remaining schedule, the Chargers very much control their own destiny.
But the length of Gordon’s absence could have big implications for both their season and the AFC playoff picture as a whole.
Chiefs Big Favorites in Divisional Race
While just a game behind the Chiefs for the division lead, the Chargers’ chances of finishing ahead of Kansas City took a big hit with the injury news.
The Chiefs have a considerably easier remaining schedule with the hapless Oakland Raiders appearing twice on it. That coupled with the fact that Patrick Mahomes very well could be the MVP creates has the sportsbooks expecting the Chiefs to win the West comfortably.
There’s still plenty that could happen, but assuming Mahomes continues his incredible season as a first-year starter, it’s looking increasingly likely that the Chargers will be a Wild Card squad.
The two teams meet up in Kansas City on a Thursday night showdown December 13 which could end up being the game that decides the race.
Whether or not Gordon is back for that one will obviously be a huge factor, but monitoring how LA handles his injury in relation to their current playoff position could be pivotal.
Should the Chargers have a playoff spot locked up, there’s a chance they could opt to remain cautious with bringing Gordon back as the risk of him reinjuring himself before the postseason would be worth noting.
Such an injury would deal a blow to their +1400 odds to win it all which are suitably long and a decent value for a team that can hang with the best the NFL has to offer.
And just for fun, the odds of an ALL LA Super Bowl are +2,000 for those adventurous bettors.