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The Best NFL Team No One Cares About

December 13th, 2018 · No Comments · Chargers, Football, NFL, Rams

That would be the San Diego … uh, Los Angeles … Chargers.

Are they good? Turns out, yes. Yes they are.

The Chargers are 11-3 good, and only two teams in the NFL have a better record — the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams, each 11-2.

The Chiefs are 11-3, as are the Chargers, but the Chiefs are leaders of the AFC West thanks to the divisional-games tiebreaker.

The Chargers defeated the Chiefs in dramatic fashion tonight, scoring a touchdown with :04 on the clock to draw to 28-27, then adding a two-point conversion to win 29-28 — ending the Chargers’ 13-game losing streak against K.C.

And reinforcing their status as the best team in perhaps any North American sports league that no one (well, hardly anyone) cares about. (Yes, including the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes.)

Consider.

–The Chargers averaged 25,337 fans in their first six home games this season, at their home field — the StubHub Center. By far the poorest attendance in the league. Second-worst? The Indianapolis Colts, at 49,315 — nearly double the Chargers.

Of course, StubHub was built as a soccer stadium, and the Chargers can’t get many more than 25,000 in there for an NFL event. Which last season, especially, probably was a good thing, given the team’s lack of popularity.

Their official “home” attendance this season is 236,568 — but that includes the 84,301 who turned out at Wembley Stadium in England. The Chargers were designated the home team for that one.

–Fewer home games has been a good thing, for humans watching the Chargers in person, because for most of the 13 games the Chargers have played in StubHub … fans of the visiting team have turned out in en masse, overwhelming Chargers fans in numbers and noise. Some followers of the team suggest that not until the club’s most recent home game, versus the woeful Cincinnati Bengals, did the Chargers seem to have more fans in attendance than did the visitors. A first.

–The Los Angeles market is, once again, overwhelmed by significant professional sports franchises — two teams each in the NFL, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer.

–The Chargers are trying to gain a foothold in the popularity contest, after having abandoned San Diego ahead of the 2017 season.

It always was going to be difficult for the Chargers to win significant attention in the L.A. football market, especially against the Rams — who had the better part of a half century based in Los Angeles before that unfortunate interim (1995-2015) in St. Louis — and who also returned to L.A. in 2016, a year earlier than did the Chargers.

–The Chargers arrived in the L.A. market from the worst possible departure point — San Diego, where the Chargers were a local institution, even given their failure to win a Super Bowl. San Diego also has an enormous inferiority complex towards Los Angeles. Probably 98 percent (to make up a stat) of San Diego Chargers fans instantly became ex-fans after the 2017 move. Not only did the Chargers leave San Diego, they left for Los Angeles. Unforgivable.

–And, in that first year in their soccer-stadium home, the Chargers lost their four opening games, further driving down whatever expectations of … anyone, anywhere … that this new arrival was going to matter.

Now, here they are, winners of 10 of their past 11, after a 1-2 start, and assured at least a wild-card berth in the playoffs. And quite a few people who saw them rally from a 28-14 deficit to win tonight … are going to be looking at them a bit more closely.

It might start with fans familiarizing themselves with the Chargers roster.

We will spot you Philip Rivers, the quarterback, and perhaps one of the half-dozen best at the position. The whole of the NFL knows about him.

And maybe you know Joey Bosa, defensive lineman, thanks to his strong rookie season last season and/or his time at The Ohio State.

But admit it, now you are in trouble.

Maybe head coach Anthony Lynn? Or is it Lynn Anthony? (The former.)

He has turned out to be a strong coach and leader of men, and his staff seems to know how to get things done, as seen in the clutch fourth-quarter rally tonight.

Now, the question is … have the Chargers done enough to get the (at least muted) attention of Los Angeles and its 10 million or so people?

Given the typically lengthy run-up to true acceptance, which probably starts with “have been around for a while” and continues to “and have won a championship” … probably not.

The Chargers will remain a curiosity with a fine record that few people will take particularly seriously. Or with any particular enthusiasm. It’s too soon.

Unless.

Unless the Chargers somehow get to the Super Bowl.

That might well bring supporters out of the woodwork. Because L.A. fans may be torn in a variety of directions, and snooty about its teams … but an L.A. team in the Super Bowl? No L.A. team has won a Super Bowl since the Raiders in 1984, during their middle of their 13-year stay in Los Angeles, between the two long runs in Oakland.

(Corrects original, which omitted Raiders winning a Super Bowl while in L.A.)

A first Super Bowl in this century?

The Chargers could jump a half-dozen years in acceptance if they pull that off.

 

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