Can Justin Herbert Take the Chargers to the Playoffs – And Win MVP?
The Los Angeles Chargers have made the playoffs only twice since 2010 and have yet to advance beyond the Divisional Round. The team had high hopes last season with QB Justin Herbert entering his second season after showing promise as a rookie. Yet, the Chargers finished third in the AFC West with a 9-8 record.
Despite the team’s mediocre season, Herbert met expectations and established himself as one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the league. He finished the year with 5,014 passing yards, 38 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. He also scrambled for more than 300 yards and scored three rushing touchdowns.
Herbert was a Pro Bowler last season for the first time in his career and was a fantasy stud, but can he elevate the Chargers to another level on the field? The 6-foot-6, 237-pound QB has the shortest odds (+650) to lead the NFL in passing yards this season, ahead of the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, and Joe Burrow.
Returning with the Same Offense
Herbert should have no problem replicating his success from last season, considering the Chargers are returning with practically the same offense they had last season. Austin Ekeler is back at running back, while Keenan Allen and Mike Williams will be Herbert’s two primary targets down the field. Second-year wide receiver Joshua Palmer could – and should – take another step forward in his development after recording 353 receiving yards and four touchdowns last season.
The one change for the Chargers offense is at tight end, where Gerald Everett assumes the starting duties after spending last season with the Seattle Seahawks. Everett, who posted career-best figures in touchdowns and catch rate in 2021, should get another boost in production as TE1 for an elite offensive team.
Herbert as the Potential MVP?
Elite quarterbacks like Herbert usually establish themselves as such in their third season. That’s when they rise from very good to great. Herbert certainly seems to be on that path and is definitely an MVP candidate – he holds the record for most passing yards (9,350) and touchdowns (69) through a player’s first two seasons.
Whether or not he gets there is up to him and the players around him. He can produce another 5,000-yard, 35-plus touchdown season, but the Chargers can miss the playoffs without much improvements on defense – fortunately, the team did address some areas of weakness and now has the intimidating duo of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack on opposing ends of the defensive line to pressure opposition QBs.
If the Chargers can win the division, there’s a strong chance that Herbert can take home the NFL MVP, especially if he posts similar or better numbers compared to last season. He has the third shortest odds (+1000) to win the award, just slightly behind Brady (+900) and Mahomes (+800).
Some insiders and analysts, including ESPN’s Mike Tannenbaum, expect Herbert to win the award.
“Taking nothing away from Kansas City, Justin Herbert can stand toe-to-toe with this Kansas City offense,” said Tannenbaum on ESPN’s Get Up. “And [the Chargers] are absolutely loaded on both sides of the ball. This guy right here [Herbert] is going to be the league MVP.”