Los Angeles Chargers predictions, odds, and preview for the 2023 season

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

September 4, 2023 04:33 PM

Los Angeles Chargers 2023 season preview and predictions

This appeared in the original VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on June 29, 2023.

Matt Youmans: Even when the Chargers seem to get it right, things go wrong. The latest L.A. fiasco was a blown 27-0 lead in a wild-card playoff loss at Jacksonville. The chants to fire coach Brandon Staley and hire Sean Payton quieted in a hurry. Despite the postseason disaster, Staley was retained, with a 19-15 record in his two years, and Payton went to Denver. The Chargers did make changes that should be for the better, and they feature one of the few elite quarterbacks who can go toe to toe with the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes.


An attack criticized for being too conservative the past two years is getting an aggressive new coordinator, Kellen Moore, who designed an explosive passing game in Dallas. Justin Herbert is the primary reason for hope. The No. 6 pick in the 2020 draft, Herbert has started 49 games and posted a 25-24 record. He has passed for 14,089 yards with 94 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. Few passers have compiled better numbers in their first three years in the NFL, but his zero playoff wins stick out as a sore thumb. Herbert now has the play-calling coordinator and supporting cast to reach the next level. Veteran receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams combined for only eight touchdowns last season when injuries riddled their availability. Joshua Palmer emerged as Herbert’s top receiver, and first-round pick Quentin Johnston adds a vertical threat. The team’s second-most productive player was running back Austin Ekeler, who totaled 1,637 yards (915 rushing on 204 carries; 722 receiving on 107 catches) and 18 touchdowns. Left tackle Rashawn Slater suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3, and his absence was a crusher. Slater, left guard Zion Johnson and center Corey Linsley anchor one of the league’s top lines. The Chargers fielded a middle-of-the-pack scoring offense at 23 points per game yet have the talent to rank in the league’s top five.


Injuries are the X-factor for all teams, and the Chargers usually end up with bad injury luck. Last year, outside linebacker Joey Bosa and cornerback J.C. Jackson each played in only five games. Staley’s defensive plan to use Bosa and linebacker Khalil Mack as bookend pass rushers never came together. Mack totaled eight sacks, and Bosa had 2.5. The defense ranked 14th in sacks (40) and 21st in scoring (22.6 ppg). The leaders on the second and third levels of the defense will be inside linebacker Eric Kendricks, second-year corner Asante Samuel Jr. and All-Pro safety Derwin James, who had 115 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions in 14 games. The Chargers ranked 30th in run defense in 2021 and 28th (145.8 ypg) in 2022. Staley has not backed up his reputation as a defensive wizard, but the Chargers’ crippling injury situation has been the biggest problem.


The talent is obvious on paper, but the Chargers tease bettors almost every year. While the sharps tend to tout this team, the trendy-pick optimism rarely pays off. The Chargers’ 10-7 record last year included a 2-4 division mark as they finished four games behind K.C. The Chargers last won the AFC West in 2009, a futile stretch that should end at some point during the Herbert era. If postseason success does not come soon, Staley will find a hot seat. This is a lean Over 9.5 for a team that typically underachieves.

This appeared in the Updated VSiN NFL Betting Guide released on August 31, 2023.

Michael Lombardi: If you ask any Navy Seal Bud instructor if they can tell who will not make it through the grueling eight-week training program, they all say the candidate who looks great the first day and shows great athletic skills initially. Once the training begins, the bumps and bruises occur, they fall short and disappear, and their helmet ends up in the quad. That sounds like the Los Angeles Chargers to me. They are great on paper; awesome to start the season when they are completely healthy; they have a Super Bowl feel. Once the grind begins, they lose players, don’t look as good on paper, and fall apart. 

Last year, they refused to run the ball, ranking 28th in rushing attempts. And their defense could not stop the run. This summer, they have tried to run the ball, attempting 94 carries for a 6.4 yard per carry. In 2022, they attempted 64 carries and averaged 3.5 yards per attempt. Big difference. Now last summer, they were behind in all the games, which might explain the fewer carries, yet it’s hard to ignore the production and the emphasis. They added one player in the off-season to their defense — linebacker Eric Kendricks, which could help. But when you cannot stop the run and struggle to defend the pass — 20th overall in yards allowed per attempt — it might take more than one player and health to keep the Chargers helmet from being in the quad.

Player to Watch: WR Keenan Allen

Health is a skill and one that the Chargers have had problems with for several seasons in a row. If Allen can stay healthy, a return to being over 1,000 yards is not only within reach, but quite possibly the expectation for 2023. Allen and Herbert were reportedly in sync and then some over the final week of preseason action and Kellen Moore’s offensive scheme has been predicated on getting the ball out quick and into open space, with the occasional deep toss mixed in. Allen caught over 100 passes in 2017, and then for three straight years from 2019-21. He caught 66 balls in just 10 games last season and a return to prominence looks likely for the five-time Pro Bowler in this offense. - Adam Burke

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