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Throw the crucial missteps into the forge. Toss the botched kicks into the flames. All the heartbreak and devastation now smithed through the embers of blood, sweat, and tears to develop an AFC powerhouse.

It’s time to forgive and forget the miscues. An attempted field goal by Josh Lambo that never left the ground to force overtime against Oakland. TY Hilton torching Jason Verrett and streaking down the field for a 63-yard game-winning touchdown. The Chargers turning the ball over three times in five minutes to blow a 34-21 lead against Drew Brees and company. Alex Smith diving into the end zone helmet first to erase an 18-point Chargers lead.

And all of those individual disasters occurred in one snake-bitten season.

Chargers’ Close Calls and Heartache

Since 2015, the Chargers, both in San Diego and Los Angeles, went 7-21 in one-score games. To compare, the Browns are 2-17 since 2015 in one-possession contests. Not the company the Chargers want to share with.

Since 2006, Philip Rivers and the Bolts have lost 27 games by three points or less. Brees is second on this dubious list with 21 such losses.

Last year saw the Chargers overshadowed by the Rams for Hollywood supremacy. Now it’s the Chargers’ time to shine.

Turning Over a New “Leaf”

The Chargers’ six pro bowlers last season were tied for fourth-most in the league. Only the Seahawks had more, seven, for a non-playoff team. The difference is the Chargers are trending up, while “The Legion of Boom” in Seattle is dead.

Rivers is fresh off his best season since 2013, coincidentally the last time he led a postseason run. Melvin Gordon eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for the first time last year. Keenan Allen, returning from a season-ending injury, earned Comeback Player of the Year hardware.

The Chargers’ offense is good, but the other side of the ball will elevate them to new heights. Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa will torment and harass opposing quarterbacks while Casey Hayward anchors the secondary. Even with Verrett out for the year, this defense will not skip a beat.

Competition and Rivals

The timing is beneficial for the Bolts as well. Tom Brady‘s defiance against Father Time will be tougher than ever before. Now at age 41, his roster stands as one of the weakest during his Patriot tenure.

Pittsburgh remains as stat-stuff crazed as ever but their recent playoff failures on top of Le’Veon Bell‘s contract discourse could derail any momentum.

The AFC South is the greatest mystery. Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson are coming off injuries while rollercoaster rides of Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota confuse the football world. Which version of themselves will show up each Sunday?

Finally, the wild western division of the AFC leaves the Chargers in complete control. The Broncos are now in an interesting competitive rebuild mode. Pro Bowl snub Case Keenum led the best roster in football last season, but the Broncos are a shell of what Minnesota was packing.

Meanwhile, Andy Reid cast out Smith in favor of second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The roster is rekindled with Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce but can they keep pace with the seasoned squad in LA?

Rivers Eclipsing Fouts’ Shadow

Rivers has perhaps a personal aspiration amid the upcoming season. Can he overcome the vast shadow of Hall of Famer Dan Fouts? Already the leader in all significant franchise records for passing Rivers is now steering one of the best rosters of his career. Can Rivers overcome the Fouts’ legacy in 2018?

This is the year for the Chargers to break their playoff drought. This is the year for the Chargers to win the AFC West throne. The time is now for the Chargers to prepare to punch their ticket to Atlanta for Super Bowl 53.

Frank Sumrall

Author Frank Sumrall

A sports junkie and enthusiast scouring the face of the earth for signs of life for the Cleveland Browns.

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Sports Al Dente 2019

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