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Elway: ‘As I stand here, looking at it, the Chargers might be the team to beat.”

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It’s time to start scouting the 49ers opponents. Given some comments by John Elway, we’ll look at the Los Angeles Chargers

The San Francisco 49ers 2018 schedule is going to have a trying first half with quite a few playoff caliber teams matching up. One team that may be a bit underrated is the Los Angeles Chargers who the 49ers will travel to face in Week 4.

The 49ers will be facing the AFC west in its entirety in 2018, they have the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3, Oakland Raiders in Week 9 and the Denver Broncos in Week 14. Kansas City has gotten some love for their offseason maneuvers, but the Chargers may be the team to beat in this division. Don’t ask us, ask John Elway who stated just as much. The Chargers started 2017 cold, going 3-5 for the first half of the season. They only lost two more games for the rest of the year going 9-7, which isn’t bad for head coach Anthony Lynn’s inaugural season. Their record was playoff worthy, however the team entered a four-way tie with the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, and Buffalo Bills that the Bills and Titans eventually walked away the winners of.

The Chargers do have a young team and somewhat mimic the 49ers in their building over the years, but they also have some veterans and Philip Rivers is no slouch when it comes to the quarterback position.

Draft picks

Round 1: Derwin James (S)
Round 2: Uchenna Nwosu (EDGE)
Round 3: Justin Jones (DT)
Round 4: Kyzir White (LB)
Round 5: Scott Quessenberry (C)
Round 6: Dylan Cantrell (WR)
Round 7: Justin Jackson (RB)

On paper, the Chargers draft is solid. There’s nothing earth-shattering about the overall board that will be immediate, but the pick of Derwin James could work out something special for Los Angeles in the future. James can play a multitude of positions and can help that Los Angeles secondary. James is still learning, according to his scouting report, so while he should be starting immediately, he could also be ripe for the pickings in 2018 when the 49ers come to town. Edge-rusher Uchenna Nwosu was taken a few picks early, but given the Chargers’ positioning, and the need of the pick, it makes sense, especially with the possibilities he’ll have when paired with Joey Bosa. Nwosu again will need some time to acclimate with his game as he only started for two and a half years at USC.

What you see from this draft is a load of potential that can bring boom, if fans will have patience.

Notable free agents

Caleb Sturgis (K)
Virgil Green (TE)
Mike Pouncey (C)

The Chargers had a quiet free agency, improving their center position with Mike Pouncey and adding Virgil Green for tight end, this also meant that they would let go of long-time tight end Antonio Gates. Gates, 37, remains a free agent as of this writing.

Way too early gambling line

Chargers -3.5

The matchup

As decent as their draft is and how it seems the Chargers have done what they should do in the offseason, it’s hard to see the Chargers as a scary team. With the Raiders and the Chiefs both in similar spots, calling the Chargers the ‘team to beat’ seems like a stretch as the entire AFC West seems to be stricken with parity. The Chargers also have a lack of a home crowd, as they have had difficulty selling out the stadium for home games, and given that they are playing in the same state as the 49ers, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the home crowd decked out in red and gold.

If the 49ers were to lose this game, I would be surprised. It’s all going to ride on the 49ers defense and the play of Philip Rivers. Once Rivers gets a rhythm going, he can be tough to stop, especially with the 49ers pass rush. If they can stop the run and contain Rivers, they can walk out with a win. But that might be asking a lot out of the 49ers defense. Just remember, they have Jimmy Garoppolo if defense doesn’t work.

Plus it’s Week 3, you never know if the Chargers are good until Week 8