It was a welcome sight to see the Chargers come out with the victory last Sunday against the Texans. As the Chargers typically do, they kept it interesting by nearly giving up a big lead. Thankfully, they were able to get back on track and seal the win. It was a game that I called a “must-win” in my article last week. It was great to see them get back on track.
The Chargers are coming into their second game in a row against a team that should be seen as an inferior opponent, the Cleveland Browns. One of the best games of the entire 2021 NFL season actually came in week five last year against the Browns. The game was an offensive explosion that had the Chargers winning 47-42. Coming into week five this year, the Chargers again take on the Browns in a very important game that could have playoff implications down the line. I’m going to go into the three key matchups that should help the Chargers win a bit more comfortably than last season.
Matchup One: Trenches
Without a single doubt in my mind, this game is going to come down to the trenches, mainly with the Browns’ offense and the Chargers’ defense. The Browns have been the best running team in the NFL this year. Nick Chubb is absolutely tearing up the league at this point. In four games, he has totaled 459 rushing yards and five touchdowns, carrying the ball at an insanely efficient 5.7 yards per carry. Kareem Hunt has also totaled 200 yards of his own. While the Browns are playing with a backup quarterback for the first 11 games of the season, they are going to continually run the ball, and they do it very well.
I’m not expecting the Chargers to be able to completely take Chubb out of the game; however, it’s crucial that they are at least able to contain him. Last year, Chubb and Hunt combined for 222 yards and three touchdowns, which was the reason they were ever even in this game, to begin with. The Chargers are going to have to stack the box, and I expect Derwin James to be around the line of scrimmage constantly. If they can hold Chubb and hunt to four yards per carry, I don’t see how the Chargers could lose this game.
Matchup Two: Jamaree Salyer and Myles Garrett
This one is obvious, and everyone understands why. Despite how great Jamaree Salyer played last week, it’s not fair of us to assume that he is going to be able to replicate that same production against Myles Garrett. I wrote in my article last week about the importance of Salyer’s matchup with Jerry Hughes. Salyer came out in his debut and played better than anyone expected. He flat-out was elite the entire game and didn’t allow anyone to get to Justin Herbert.
As I said, it’s impossible for us to expect the same in this coming game against Garrett. He was my pick to win defensive player of the year, and he has lived up to that so far this year. Garrett was recently in a car accident that barely kept him out of the game last week, but I don’t see him having any limitations in this game. I have no problem if Salyer gives up a sack this game and a few pressures. What the Chargers cannot afford, however, is Garrett taking over this game and getting in the backfield seemingly every other play. The hope is the Chargers scheme some help for him to where tight ends and running backs will chip Garrett to help out. Limiting Garrett is key to the Chargers winning this game.
Matchup Three: JC Jackson vs Amari Cooper
This is a very important matchup for the Chargers, and also for JC Jackson’s confidence. Jackson has missed two games due to his recovery from ankle surgery, and he has struggled in the two games that he has played. Many fans are getting frustrated and are saying signing him was a bad decision. Let me be clear, it’s crazy for anyone to have those feelings after two games. Jackson has been playing hurt and you can obviously tell that he hasn’t been 100%. Getting the all-pro level corner in Jackson will do wonders for this defense.
On the other side, he will most likely see a lot of time with Amari Cooper. Cooper has had an up-and-down season from a statistical standpoint, but I mainly put that on the quarterback situation and the dominance of the running game. He has gone over 100 yards and scored a touchdown in two games this season so far. Cooper has shown that he still has the talent to be a top receiver, especially as an excellent route runner. Slowing him down and not allowing him to take over is going to be crucial. I believe this is the game where Jackson proves that he is still dominant, to where he holds Cooper to under 30 yards and also records his first interception of the season.
Despite this being an early game on the road in Cleveland, this is a game that the Chargers should be expected to win. They are going to have a tougher time without Rashawn Slater, Joey Bosa, and Keenan Allen. Despite all of that, they are still the better team with a much better quarterback. I see the Chargers jumping out the gate quickly just like last week and winning this game.
Score prediction: Chargers 31 Browns 23
Week Five Chargers Key Matchups Vs The Browns. Photo Via Ty Nowell