2022 REWIND: 2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 1: Chargers 20, Washington 16
I’ve started re-reading back through my 2021 game reports looking for good and bad scouting instincts on things I might have lost track of, whether for Fantasy or just the team in general. I especially wanted to focus on the L.A. Chargers’ 2021 season…because my first computer simulation of the season showed them as the 2022 Super Bowl champs. From not making the playoffs in 2021 to the Super Bowl in 2022.
The Chargers didn’t change their coaching staff this offseason and they didn’t overhaul much of their offensive core, but they have dramatically boosted their defense this offseason. So, in theory, this team should be gelling and taking a step forward from a 9-win team last season to what I think will be a division winner and serious Super Bowl contender this season. At a minimum, it’s a playoff team (if Herbert stays healthy).
For some summer reading material, I’ll be looking back at my Chargers’ game reports from last season week-by-week and writing/typing some instant reaction notes (forgive any typos) to what I’m re-reading and then publishing that full 2021 game recap for LAC from each week of 2021 season WITH the 2022 reaction notes.
We’ll start with Week 1 and go through each game week, one game post per day for the next 16-17 days.
Many other Week 1 games had big name stars going or fancy rookie QBs and/or were high scoring affairs with lots of visual appeal. With all the other attention getting things happening, this lower scoring game quietly flew under the radar -- but it shouldn’t have. It was a heavyweight battle involving two of the better teams in football – one of the 3-5 best offenses versus the #1-2 defense in the NFL.
With the lower score/scoring, you’d think the defenses won out…that it was a slog of a defensive affair. And it was a good-to-great defensive showing on both sides, but after watching this tape I would summarize it as: Washington had to play really well on defense to keep themselves in this/they are lucky the Chargers didn’t blow them out.
And I don’t want that sentence to be just a nice, forgettable description of the game in a nutshell. Washington played very well on defense, but the Chargers were so good they nearly blew them out. ‘Nearly blew them out’…in a 20-16 final?
Let me share this from the game: The Chargers had nine offensive drives in the game, they went as follows…
#1) TD drive off the bat
#2) Three and out punt
#4) LAC going into the red zone but a pure drop by Keenan Allen did convert an easy 3rd-down, so they settled for FG.
#5) Goal-to-go, but had to settle for FG
#6) Into the red zone…a fumble ended the drive.
#7) Into the red zone, but an overthrow INT
#8) WSH fumbled near their own goal line…set up an easy score for LAC soon after
#9) LAC embarked on a 15 play, 72-yard drive to get down to the goal-to-go but took knees to end it for the win.
The Chargers scored 20 points, but it took luck and good+ Washington defense for this not to be a game where the Chargers scored 30+ easy. had the Chargers posted 30-35+ on Washington it would have been monumental...and should've been worshipped. But it didn't happen...but it almost did, and we should take serious note of that.
The Chargers had the perfect game plan to neutralize the Washington pass rush most of the game…Justin Herbert is too good for good defenses to fiddle with. Herbert played a smart game against a good-to-great defense. It was as good a performance as there was all week from a QB, but no one in the media is going to recognize it. They’ll be off celebrating Jameis Winston and Matt Stafford.
Credit Washington for hanging in…they really should have won this game. With a 16-13 lead in the 4th-quarter, Antonio Gibson fumbled near their own goal line and turned it over for an easy LAC TD soon after, and a 20-16 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
A quality game on both sides…but the Chargers with more quality, on both sides. Washington a yeoman’s effort after losing Ryan Fitzpatrick so soon in the game. These are both playoff level teams, with the Chargers going to be the future of the NFL with their QB and head coach/staff.
*2022 JUNE NOTE = First impressions reading this back...
-It seems like a hundred years ago that Ryan Fitzpatrick was the starting QB hope for Wahsington. He got hurt in this game and was done for the season...and, now, a career.
-The Chargers won this game, barely...but were so good on offense until they got near the red zone and then they'd sputter -- something that would haunt them all 2021, and cost them the division/getting past KC and even just making a wild card playoff spot.
-Week 1 last year was that game for Jameis Winston where he threw 5 TD passes but had like 100+ yards passing in that very bizarre Green Bay game to start the season.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- I have to start with Justin Herbert (31-47 for 337 yards, 1 TD/1 INT).
No QB had a tougher opening week game…west-to-east coast trip/timing, new offense/coaches, taking on a/the top defensive team in the NFL – and he got the team into the red zone on seven of 9 drives…amazing. And all the drive failures were mostly all flukes (easy dropped passes, weird fumble, near miss TDs) but Washington also rose up to make matters tougher. Herbert, in reality, should have had 3-4 TD passes here. Had he posted 330+ yards and 3-4 TDs against Washington…he would be hailed today, but he didn’t…he had a muted (kinda) Week 1 for FF in a game most people didn’t really pay attention to as much as other more marquee matchups. To me, this was the marquee matchup of Week 1.
So, the Justin Herbert hype train didn’t gain any steam because of all the stated factors…which means people aren’t celebrating him like they are many other QBs. If there were ‘regression’ worries on Herbert for current owners, then this game didn’t end those thoughts. It means, in some cases, Herbert is high priced…but reasonably available…even if you have to overpay for it a little.
Herbert’s talent behind this elite O-Line, and elite coaching staff (potentially) is going mean this is a top 1-2-3 NFL offense. Which means Herbert is going to be a top 1-2-3 FF QB, but his valuation in the world is more like he’s a #6-7-8 QB. It represents great value if you want to try and get it. This was the tough part of their schedule…now it’s an open road, mostly, the rest of the way.
*2022 JUNE NOTE = Herbert went on to be the #2 scoring QB in PPG last season. The Chargers offense was 5th highest scoring in the league.
-- Who was Herbert throwing to besides Keenan Allen (9-100-0/13)?
Mike Williams (8-82-1/12) had a day against a very good cover secondary. Williams had a drop or two in tight coverage. He also did that annoying leap/jump/crash for passes and then came up hurt a few times but played through it. One of his best games in the NFL working a more normal WR role…not just deep ball/jump ball guy. This is going to pay off, as we hoped…better than we hoped.
*2022 JUNE NOTE = Man, remember this game? Remember the first few games start for Big Mike? Sad-ish ending...
Jaylen Guyton (3-49-0/5) ran as the #3 WR, and he looked better than I’ve seen…like a real WR. Being a #3 on the Chargers means he might sneak into WR3/Flex discussions in deeper leagues.
Jared Cook (5-56-0/8) looks old/rickety but is the TE of note for Herbert for sure. I’m down with Cook as being a TE1 now…a fringe one. Donald Parham (0-0-0/1) saw some red zone work but was mostly a ghost.
-- The LAC RB report was not what I expected…
Obviously, Austin Ekeler (15-57-1, 0-0-0/0) started…but he didn’t even see a target in this game. For all the ‘this is a version of the Saints offense’ talk in the preseason…there was no Kamara-like work for Ekeler here. It may have just been the game plan for WSH, but this is concerning right off the bat for Ekeler owners.
*2022 JUNE NOTE = Ekeler would make up for it from here...
Justin Jackson (1-5-0, 1-2-0/1) was the #2 back, but was barely identifiable.
The odd thing I didn’t see coming: rookie RB Larry Roundtree (8-27-0) was in the game's first series (3rd RB in the game, but in) and was running a power game…and got 8 carries. More than most rookie RBs had Week 1. He’s not great but he is big and obviously LAC trusts him. I’m not excited about him, but after watching this game back Monday -- I’m more curious about him as a handcuff than the totally dismissive person I was after Sunday. Not hot for him, just recognizing he’s got more than zero value I thought he had.
-- Ryan Fitzpatrick (3-6 for 13 yards, 0 TDs/0 INTs) is going to be out at least half the season, possibly more. Will the Football Team go get a Nick Foles or Cam Newton or other? No.
Ron Rivera loves Taylor Heinicke (11-15 for 122 yards, 1 TD/0 INT), so he won’t ruin that by bringing in more talented guys. Rivera also loves Kyle Allen if need be.
Heinicke is a capable stop gap, quintessential backup QB. Good in a pinch…not what you want for half a season with a playoff level team, but that’s exactly what’s coming.
*2022 JUNE NOTE = RC was right...
-- How does Heinicke affect Washington weapons for FF?
Heinicke is more of a short and medium thrower, and his O-Line doesn’t give him a ton of time…so, this isn’t great for Terry McLaurin (4-62-0/4).
*2022 JUNE NOTE = RC was right...
It’s OK for Logan Thomas (3-30-1/3)…they had a nice relationship last year in their playoff game together, and hooked up for a score here. You’d rather have Fitz or other for Logan, but it will be fine.
Antonio Gibson (20-90-0, 3-18-0/5) is the offense, and will remain so.
Dyami Brown (1-0-0/4)…you have to be kidding me… *2022 JUNE NOTE = RC was right...
-- IDP notes…
Cole Holcomb (11 tackles, 1 QB hit) led the way in tackles for WSH…and he looks great. He’s a legit LB1 this year, it appears. *2022 JUNE NOTE = RC was wrong, he was not a top 12 LB...he was #13 in PPG...
Kenneth Murray (10 tackles) led the Chargers in tackles, as I had hoped. Two of my favorite linebacker talents in all of football are Murray and Holcomb. *2022 JUNE NOTE = RC was definitely wrong about Murray's 2021 prospects.
Derwin James (7 tackles, 1 PD) is back, and didn’t tear his ACL! He’s a DB1 when healthy.
-- Speaking of defense, two of the best units in football were on display here.
Washington was very good, but not as radical as I hoped…but considering the opponent, this was good. Washington’s pass rush was constantly neutralized by a good/great Chargers O-Line and Herbert’s purposed quick passing. Not many teams have the O-Line and a QB with a howitzer arm like the Chargers do. Only the Chiefs…and maybe the Bills do but it didn't look like it Week 1.
The Chargers should be a top 5 FF DST, but they won’t be – the schedule is way too tough. Dak-Mahomes-Carr-Baker/run game-Lamar/run game-BYE-NE run game-PHI run game for the next 8 weeks…not fruitful for FF scoring. Too many good+ O-Lines and QBs to face. Just a bad schedule is all. Otherwise, this defense is a top 5 or so NFL unit already.
The two best teams in football may be the Chiefs and Chargers…and they’re in the same division. Crazy. *2022 JUNE NOTE = That wasn't looking too crazy through about midseason...heading into their 2nd showdown game.
Snap Counts of Interest:
36 = A Gibson
20 = McKissic
04 = Patterson
55 = McLaurin
51 = Dyami
33 = Humphries
02 = Cam Sims
67 = Keenan
61 = Mk Williams
53 = Guyton
14 = Josh Palmer
47 = Cook
41 = Parham
20 = Stv Anderson
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