After being shown up at home by the Seattle Seahawks and Kenneth Walker, the Los Angeles Chargers will face the Falcons on the road. Atlanta has surprised many this year, as they’re currently in the lead in the NFC South. Marcus Mariota has been a solid starter for the team and this has all the makings of another trap game. Incredibly, this is probably the most important game of the season so far, as it could determine the state of the team for the rest of the year. Let’s break down some matchups to watch in the game and what the Chargers can do to win.
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Matchups to Watch
Falcons Running Game vs Chargers Defense
The Falcons have been a surprisingly good team running the ball this year, ranking fourth in rushing yards per game. Mariota has been a threat through the air as well as on the ground. He’s rushed for the seventh most yards by QBs, one spot behind Josh Allen.
The Chargers have struggled against the run with two of their losses coming against top-ten rushing offenses. Even against the Chiefs, Clyde Edwards-Helaire had his second-best game this year.
The Falcons have 4 players that have rushed for over 200 yards this year, the highest in the league. The Bolts allow the highest yards per carry in the league with 5.7. Whether it be will Mariota, or Tyler Allgeier, the Chargers desperately need to stop the run and the Falcons rushing offense is one of the best remaining they’ll face.
Chargers WR2 vs Atlanta Secondary
The Chargers will be without Mike Williams for a few weeks which means a new receiver needs to take his spot. As of right now, Joshua Palmer has filled that role this year, with Deandre Carter taking some deep ball responsibilities. Palmer hasn’t been very consistent, with Austin Ekeler and Gerald Everett having more receiving yards. Wide receiver is probably the biggest weakness on offense, with injuries hindering the unit. Whoever steps up in the passing game whether that be Everett or Palmer could be the X Factor for the Bolts to win this game.
Michael Davis vs Anyone
This next game versus Atlanta will see Michael Davis take over starting CB duties with J.C. Jackson out for the season. He’ll likely fill in for the rest of the season on the outside so this game could set the tone for the rest of the year. Now CB2, Davis needs to step up on defense and be an asset rather than a liability.
Keys to Win
Get the ground game going
The Chargers run game seemed to thrive the last couple of games, but against Seattle, it stalled. The offense relied much more on Ekeler’s pass-catching ability rather than running the ball. Against Atlanta, they’ll need a spark on the ground to keep the offense running and to protect a potential lead. Ekeler has never been a great true runner, so someone else will have to step up whether that be Spiller or Michel, and be the short-yardage power guy.
The Chargers need to be more efficient every time they touch the ball on offense. They rank eighth in offensive yards per game, but 11th in points per game. They’re also middle of the pack when it comes to 3rd down percentage and time of possession. They’re middle of the pack when it comes to offensive EPA and they are among the worst teams when it comes to rushing EPA. Herbert doesn’t look the same, which is expected given the fact that he hasn’t had all his starters healthy this year and is under the second most pressure of all quarterbacks
As I’m sure is true for any team, the Chargers need to use the bye week to regroup and get healthy. Herbert is possibly playing through his rib injury, as he doesn’t seem to have his usual zip on the ball. Another week of rest and practice could help him improve in the long run as well as receive more treatment. Keenan Allen should use the much-needed rest to help his hamstring as well. Injuries have derailed the season so far and hopefully won’t continue to.