The preseason is really long. As we all wait for real games to start, we can start getting a feel of how the season might play out. Instead of looking at unreliable data from the preseason, places like Football Outsiders use their projected Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metrics to run simulations of the season. The mean wins for the San Diego Chargers after these simulations is 9.4 wins, which is .1 above the mean wins from the first run of projections in May. While nine wins might not seem like a lot for a team that improved its roster after a 9-7 season, these projections regress most teams towards an 8-8 record. To have a projected record 1.4 wins above the league average is actually a promising sign for San Diego.
For a better use of these simulations, Football Outsiders gathers a range of win totals, a more accurate and reliable projection than just spitting out a record. With recent release of the 2014 Football Outsiders Almanac, those totals have been released for the Chargers, as well as the other 31 teams. We’ll go through the four win total ranges, starting with the least likely and envision how each of these scenarios would play out.
0-4 Wins: 4%
This result is probably caused by nothing short of a catastrophic Philip Rivers injury. Luckily for San Diego, Rivers has not missed a game since taking over as the starter in 2006. However, if a Rivers injury were to occur, the backups on the roster are currently Kellen Clemens and Brad Sorensen. While Clemens is probably one of the better backups in the league, he’s still a significant drop off from Rivers.
5-7 Wins: 15%
A record in this range would have a few factors. One would probably be Rivers missing a few games, but not the season ender that would cause the 0-4 win range. The defense would also have to not improve at all from last season’s disaster. The Kansas City Chiefs also not regressing from last season’s 11-5 record could also take some wins away from the Chargers, as could an Oakland Raiders charge towards .500 instead of 4-12.
11+ Wins: 34%
While San Diego could have the talent to reach this level, it’s always going to be tough to do with a team quarterbacked by Peyton Manning in the same division. However, the Chiefs were able to pull out 11 wins in that scenario last year and a heavy regression from them back towards 8-8 at least would make this an easier road for the Chargers. This would also involve a huge step forward for the defense to at least the top half of the league, which would be a significant improvement from last season’s 32nd rank in defensive DVOA.
8-10 Wins: 48%
It’s no surprise this range ends up being the most likely scenario for San Diego this season. However, if this were broken down more, this range would be weighted more towards the 9 and 10 win results, especially with the 9.4 mean wins projection. Although there are pieces in place to do so, the offense doesn’t have to improve for the Chargers to get back to a playoff caliber team again. How dominant San Diego can be as a team will rest on the defense. Last season the offense dragged the defense to nine wins. If the defense can improve, especially the secondary with the addition of Brandon Flowers, the Chargers should have no problem staying in the playoff hunt.
Other numbers from Football Outsiders Almanac have the Chargers at a 62 percent chance to make the playoffs. With a top heavy AFC and a lot of questions after Denver and the New England Patriots, giving San Diego those odds to make the playoffs doesn’t seem farfetched. While there’s still a lot of season to be played, and still two preseason games, Chargers fans can still be prepared for what should be a good season of Chargers football.