CLG are the Los Angeles Chargers of the LCS

Counter Logic Gaming defied the expectations of the esports world when they began the League of Legends Championship Series... Benjamin Mock | 10. July 2022

Counter Logic Gaming defied the expectations of the esports world when they began the League of Legends Championship Series Summer split 3-0. But two weeks later, they’ve lost three of their last four and bring to mind one particular NFL team.

It’s not often that League of Legends is compared to NFL and yet here we are, about to make a scary amount of sense.

A surface comparison of CLG and the 2021 Los Angeles Chargers

Let’s start with the obvious similarity. Both teams started their respective seasons 4-1 before dropping back-to-back games to round out the first seven. CLG won their first three LCS games, dropped the fourth, won the five, and then lost the sixth and seventh. The Chargers in 2021 opened with a win, lost their second, won three in a row, and then dropped their sixth and seventh. Even though the orders are slightly different, the patterns are essentially the same.

Images of CLG and Los Angeles Chargers first seven games of the 2021 NFL and Summer 2022 LCS seasons over image of SoFi Stadium

The 2021 Chargers and Summer 2022 CLG had scarily similar openings to their seasons — Image credit: Troutfarm27, Wikipedia, Liquidpedia

The Chargers finished their 17-game season by going 5-5 in their last 10 matches and missed the playoffs. While near impossible for CLG to miss the eight-team LCS playoffs, a 6-5/5-6 finish to the LCS season feels very realistic based on what we’ve seen so far.

We’re about to get a little deeper into the similarity but I am going to make the not-so-bold claim that CLG are not headed to Worlds (contrary to the reporting from the apparent CLG superfans at a rival esports outlet my editor says I’m not allowed to name).

Why CLG are the LCS’ version of the Chargers

It’s not simply enough to claim that one team is like another because they had matching records after seven games. But let’s dive into those seven games (as well as the rest of the Chargers’ season).

Starting with CLG, it’s far to say that the team’s 3-0 start to the LCS Summer Split was surprising, especially given that the roster remained largely the same from the one that finished 8th in Spring. But here’s the problem with taking CLG’s first-week heroics and extrapolating a Worlds appearance from it — they played three of the worst teams in the LCS, who combined for two total wins between the three of them in Week One.

While CLG were able to find a surprise win over Evil Geniuses in Week Two, the rest of their results since that 3-0 have all been losses to either title contenders or middle-of-the-pack teams. The most worrying loss for this run was to FlyQuest, another “playoff-bound but not a title contender”.

This is exactly what cost the Chargers a place in the 2021 NFL playoffs. During the 5-5 run to end the season, the Chargers experienced the highs of beating the eventual Super Bowl runners-up Cincinnati Bengals but also suffered losses to middle-of-the-pack (or worse) teams like the Vikings, Broncos, and Texans. The Chargers were simply not able to beat the teams they needed to beat to make the playoffs.

Image of the Los Angeles Charger's Offnesive Line during the 2021 season

The Chargers struggled in the second half of the season, losing several games to inferior opponents — Image credit: All-Pro Reels

And the story will likely be the same for CLG. This roster is good, but is it genuinely “contend for Worlds” good, especially since they have dropped off as hard as they have in weeks two and three? Let’s break down the remainder of CLG’s schedule:

Immortals v CLG | CLG v 100 Thieves | Evil Geniuses v CLG | Team Liquid v CLG | Golden Guardians v CLG | Dignitas v CLG | CLG v Cloud9 | FlyQuest v CLG | TSM v CLG | CLG v 100 Thieves | Immortals v CLG

With CLG essentially a lock for playoffs (seriously, why does 80% of the league qualify for playoffs?), it’s all about playoff seeding. The bottom four seeds (5-8) start in the lower bracket while the top four (1-4) begin in the upper bracket. As things stand, CLG is in a position to fight for the fourth seed (which still doesn’t make life especially easy for them). So let’s try and predict the rest of the season for CLG, based on their performance and other league trends.

Immortals v CLG | CLG v 100 Thieves | Evil Geniuses v CLG | Team Liquid v CLG | Golden Guardians v CLG | Dignitas v CLG | CLG v Cloud9 | FlyQuest v CLG | TSM v CLG | CLG v 100 Thieves | Immortals v CLG

In this simulation, CLG close out the season on a 5-6 run, picking up wins against the teams below them and the occasional team above them but ultimately not getting the wins they need. I also threw in one loss to TSM because I believe CLG, like many teams, will likely slip up against at least one terrible opponent.

That would put them at a regular-season standing of 9-9, which could be good enough for fourth if the rest of the league underperforms as well. But 9-9, or even 10-8, may only be good enough for fifth place if another team has a late-season surge.

CLG are going to break your heart

Logos of Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses, and 100 Thieves over an image of the Chase Center

Does CLG really have what it takes to unseat one of the LCS’ presumptive top three? — Image credit: dtstuff9, Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses, 100 Thieves

And I think that’s where our story ends. CLG will reach the playoffs, maybe make some noise with a win or two but ultimately, their journey will end at the hands of the LCS’ perennial contenders. You have to survive a lot of best-of-fives to make Worlds and I just don’t think that CLG have the ability to do that, especially with how top-heavy the LCS has become. Sure, they can beat Evil Geniuses in a Week Two best-of-one, but can they three wins in a best-of-five?

It’s not that CLG is a bad team, clearly far from it, but like the Chargers I don’t think that CLG will make it all the way. They’ve shown that they can’t consistently beat the teams around them, and I think it’s a roster that’s already close to its ceiling. Because you also need to look at Cloud9 as the exact inverse of CLG. Cloud9 started 0-3 but once their starting roster was fully available, they’ve gone 3-1. That’s exactly the sort of team CLG needs to beat, but has already lost to.

But hey, maybe CLG retool and come back even stronger in 2023 with an awesome anime video that wins the hearts of everyone.

After all, that’s what the Chargers have done for 2022.

Header: Anders Krøgh Jørgensen, CLG, Fragster