Of the two NFL teams residing in Los Angeles, only one is being recognized as a legitimate Super Bowl contender. And no, the answer isn't the Chargers.
But with a nucleus of playoff-caliber talent, a surge in season-ticket demands, and a brand-new SoFi Stadium ready to host on Sundays, Chargers superstar running back Austin Ekeler hopes more local fans will embrace the franchise this upcoming season.
"We definitely still have some work to do, as far as community," Ekeler told the Tiki and Tierney show on Thursday. "And it comes down to us winning games, and actually getting people to be excited about watching the Chargers. And I think we haven't been able to do that in the past. It's still that same culture of, 'Hey, we're trying to get established out here.'
"Especially in LA, it's a tough crowd -- there's a lot going on. So, it's on us. We've got to win games. We've got to be exciting. We've got to get people who are Chargers fans in the stands, instead of tourists."
The Chargers, which finished 7-9 last season and missed the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years, will be led on offense by second-year quarterback Justin Herbert. As the Offensive Rookie of the Year winner in 2020, Herbert completed 67-percent of his passes for 4,336 yards, and set new NFL rookie records for touchdowns (31) and completions (396) in a single season.
As for Ekeler, who's entering his fifth season with the Chargers, he's expected to be a formidable dual-threat weapon in the backfield. Although he missed six games due to hamstring and knee injuries last year, Ekeler still managed to rack up 933 all-purpose yards with three scores in 10 games. And according to Pro Football Focus, he leads running backs in yards after the catch (1,432) and forced missed tackles (36) on receptions since 2019.
Los Angeles will open the 2021 season against the Washington Football Team on Sept. 12. According to the William Hill Sportsbook, the Chargers currently have the third-best odds (+600) to win the AFC West and the sixth-best odds (+1500) to win the conference.
The entire Chargers conversation between Ekeler and Tiki and Tierney can be accessed in the audio player above.