Fans of the Los Angeles Chargers know all too well how dangerous playing a winless team can be. In 2016, the five and nine, then San Diego Chargers, headed to Cleveland on a three-game losing streak. That season had been filled with disappointment, and they clearly needed to win to close out their season with some positive momentum. It was not meant to be.
Philip Rivers had a big day, throwing for over three hundred yards and two touchdowns. But the Chargers struggled to convert in the red zone all day long, and ultimately they were only able to come up with seventeen points. They didn’t move the ball much in the second half, and when they did, their special teams unit failed them. The Chargers got the ball back in Cleveland territory trailing by three with five minutes left in the game. They were unable to gain any traction but generated just enough yardage to get them into field goal territory for Josh Lambo. The field goal was blocked. Still, they weren’t dead yet. The Chargers defense forced a punt and gave the ball back to Rivers for one final drive. He led a 10 play, 51-yard drive to get them back into field goal range. They didn’t have any timeouts and were unable to get out of bounds on their last third down play. With the clock running, they rushed Lambo and the field goal unit onto the field. Lambo pushed his kick wide right, and the Chargers lost.
The loss to a winless Browns team added salt to the wounds of a miserable 2016 season. Mike McCoy ended up being fired after the season. It was clear he had lost the locker room, especially after the Eric Weddle debacle.
The Chargers find themselves in familiar territory this week: currently sitting at two and seven and on a three-game losing streak. The seat for Anthony Lynn is heating up to McCoy territory. The special teams unit has been failing them all season. And they have a matchup with a winless New York Jets team on tap this weekend.
Chargers fans are already moving on to the 2021 draft. This team NEEDS to win this game. Otherwise, they could be looking at a similar result of the 2016 season.
That being said, let’s get to the key matchups this week that will have an impact on the game.
The Chargers Secondary vs the Jets Wide Receivers
Make no mistake about it, the Jets have some talented pieces on their roster. Particularly on offense. Sam Darnold is not going to play this week, meaning former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco will get another start. Flacco is the fourth former Super Bowl MVP that the Chargers have faced this season; Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Patrick Mahomes being the others.
The biggest thing for this Jets offense is that their three primary wide receivers are finally healthy. Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, and Jamison Crowder have all struggled with injuries throughout the season and have been in and out of the lineup. This week will be just the second time all season that all three will be on the field together.
The last time we saw this Jets team play, they gave the New England Patriots all they could handle on Monday Night Football. Flacco is a gunslinger and that fits well with the skill sets of Periman and Mims. That night, Periman had five catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns and Mims had four catches for 62 yards.
Needless to say, the Patriots’ secondary is MUCH better than what the Chargers currently have. The good news for them is that Chris Harris should be coming back soon, likely next week. But Brandon Facyson is still on the Covid list, per Bolts From the Blue’s Michael Peterson, which means the depth behind Michael Davis and Casey Hayward is still basically non-existent. The secondary didn’t really have to do too much this past week against the Dolphins, due to the special teams lapses and the Dolphins positive game script, but that should change this weekend.
Flacco threw it a bunch against the Patriots, and that should be the case again this week. Can the Chargers secondary step up this week? Or will they let Flacco torch them like he did last year when he was with the Broncos?
Chargers Offensive Line vs Quinnen Williams
The Jets made some noise a few weeks ago when the report came out that they were potentially listening to trade offers for former number two overall pick Quinnen Williams. Williams has been highly criticized for his play so far to start his career, but similar to Jerry Tillery, he is showing some really positive signs in year two.
Williams is second on their team in pressures (15) and first in sacks (3). He is also second on the team in run stops with 19. He is really coming into his own lately. The Jets would have been foolish to trade him because he is one of the only bright spots from their winless season. He has the potential to wreck games each week and the Chargers need to be mindful of his presence.
On the Chargers side, they finally got Trai Turner back from injury this past week. It was the first time the Chargers had their normal starting offensive line on the field since week two, and that only lasted eight plays before Bryan Bulaga left to injury. Turner played well, but there were definitely some signs of rust.
The key thing for Turner is that he brings a physical presence that the Chargers have missed up front this year. Every offensive line unit needs a tone-setter. Someone that is going to come into each game and try to beat up on the opposition. That’s Turner. He’s not a technician and that is going to lead to some whiffs, but his mentality is going to lead to some splash blocks and bring some much-needed juice to the unit.
How they go about blocking Williams and company is going to set the tone for the rest of the game.
Justin Herbert vs The Jets Defense
For Justin Herbert‘s standards, his performance in Miami was pretty pedestrian. He still accounted for three touchdowns and flashed some really good things. But credit to the Dolphins for designing a really good defense that limited the Chargers’ big plays and created a lot of havoc up front.
It doesn’t get much easier for Herbert this week, in terms of playing an aggressive defense. Greg Williams is historically known for his downhill defenses that blitz a lot. However, that has created a lot of challenges for his young and inexperienced secondary. They recently cut Pierre Desir, and Brian Poole is having season-ending shoulder surgery this week. That means they’re likely going to start three rookies in the secondary this week, one of which was not drafted (Lamar Jackson). Bryce Hall is finally healthy, which partially led to their decision to cut Desir, and Ashtyn Davis is expected to move to the nickel in Poole’s absence.
Herbert is a special player who has shown he can put up huge numbers against elite competition, now he arguably gets his most favorable matchup of the season against an already bad Jets secondary that is now experiencing some depth challenges.
Earlier this week I wrote about the Chargers foolishly choosing to favor the run game against the Dolphins. That decision is at least somewhat excusable given the Dolphins great secondary and aptitude for creating turnovers. The clear weakness of the Jets defense is the secondary. The Chargers coaches absolutely HAVE to let Herbert cook this weekend. Leaning into an inefficient run game cost them against the Dolphins and it would cost them against the Jets too.
Ultimately the Chargers should be able to win this game rather easily. The Chargers are currently favored by 8.5, which should tell you all you need to know about the current state of the Jets. The Jets have just enough talent on offense to keep it interesting. But Herbert and company will make enough plays to come out on top. I’ll predict a Chargers win this weekend, 31 to 23.
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