Somewhere in the shadow of the Rams building a super team and the Chiefs historically dynamic offense, sits Kansas City’s division rival and the Rams crosstown neighbor, the 6-2 LA Chargers. Lead by franchise great Philip Rivers, the Chargers have quietly won five consecutive games and currently have the third best record in the AFC.
With the third highest QB rating in the league behind Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees and being the focal point of the third most efficient offense in the league, Rivers is having his best season in his 14-year career; but yet, he’s not getting the national recognition that Mahomes, Brees, and Jared Goff have received thus far. Statistically, he’s having a better season than Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but he’s yet to truly enter the MVP discussion.
I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise. Rivers has always seemingly been considered the adopted stepchild compared to his counterparts in the 2004 NFL draft. Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning both have two Super Bowl rings, but throughout his career, Rivers has consistently put up better numbers while typically being on inferior teams. Even today when Manning looks washed-up and Roethlisberger’s performance week-to-week has become difficult to predict, they both tend to get placed above Rivers in hall of fame discussions.
The biggest knock against the Rivers and the Chargers is their relatively easy schedule, which admittedly is fair when they’ve beaten the Bills, 49ers, Raiders, Browns, Titans, and Seahawks, but from Rivers’ perspective there’s not much to complain about. Week 9’s win in Seattle is a perfect representation of LA’s season where Rivers was effective against a good Seahawks defense, but had his kicker miss two extra points and a field goal and had to once again watch his defense allow a long drive at the end of the game that ends in a last second stop at the goal line.
Rivers’ brilliance was at it’s best on a ten play, seven-minute scoring drive at the end of the first quarter that proved to be a difference maker in the game. He threw for 45 yards and capped off the drive with an exceptionally placed back shoulder throw to Tyrell Williams for a touchdown. The ball was thrown low and slightly behind Williams which gave Seahawks corner, Tre Flowers no shot at breaking up the pass. That play takes such precise timing and accuracy from the quarterback and Rivers made it look routine.
Rivers’ accuracy this season has been simply ridiculous. The Chargers receivers are at their best in open space and he’s a done a great job with leading his receivers with passes in front of them allowing them to break off long runs after the catch. Even without tightend, Hunter Henry who tore his ACL in team OTA’s before the season, Rivers has been in a groove all season and if it wasn’t for Mahomes, he’d be having the best season by a QB in the AFC.
I’m not writing this to convince you that Philip Rivers is league’s most valuable player. Mahomes, Brees, and Todd Gurley are deserving of being the frontrunners. But can’t we throw a some more praise his way? We marvel at how well Brady and Brees are playing at 41 and 39 years old, but Rivers isn’t far behind at 36 and has a coaching staff that to put it lightly, isn’t up to par with New England and New Orleans. And yes, it’s reassuring for the NFL that they have so many great young QB’s to showcase for a decade, but let’s take a few extra moments this season to appreciate Rivers this year in a way that the fans in LA aren’t. It took retiring and career change for Tony Romo to finally be celebrated. Let’s not make the same mistake again.