Chargers Week Ahead: Bolts set to Battle the Bills

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Sep 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) looks downfield during the first quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) looks downfield during the first quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Chargers possibly suffered one of the most heartbreaking losses in franchise history last Sunday.

And if you follow the Chargers at all, you know that’s saying a lot.

Currently sitting with a record of 3-6, Los Angeles will be hard pressed to make the playoffs. However, the AFC playoff picture has looked rather weak this year and if L.A. can end the season with a 9-7 record, along with some more divisional wins, a playoff appearance would not be out of reach.

Fixing Mistakes (there’s a lot of work)

In last weeks loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was a very mundane first half other than the 56-yard touchdown run off of a fake punt for Jacksonville. This play will be a checkpoint for mistake number one. The Chargers rank dead last in overall special teams play as watching their special teams units is absolutely horrendous. Let’s take a look at the number of losses that have come this season because of sloppy special teams play. Week 1- Former Chargers kicker Younghoe Koo gets, field goal blocked at end of regulation to tie the game. Week 2- former Chargers kicker Younghoe Koo missed a field goal with a minute left to play which would have given L.A. the lead. Week 8- Chargers miss field goal on opening drive followed by a safety on a punt later in the game which New England turned into five points. That’s eight points the special teams caused them in an eight-point loss to the Patriots. Week 10- Chargers allow 56-yard touchdown off of a fake punt in a three-point loss. In case you weren’t counting along, that is four losses that can be contributed to special teams play. If the special teams had done their job in all four of those games, Los Angeles would currently be sitting at 7-2.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, left, dives over the goal line to score a touchdown past Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, right, and linebacker Myles Jack, back center, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

We already ripped the special teams for their inability to close games, but now let’s discuss the Chargers offense. Specifically in last weeks game, when your defense gifts you not one, but two interceptions in the final two minutes of a game, and all you have to do is run out the clock, you sure as hell better do your job. But instead of mixing in a healthy mix of runs and short-range pass plays, the Chargers ran the ball for four straight plays. The first of which saw a fumble by the rookie, Austin Ekeler, in which Jacksonville recovered in Chargers territory. I understand Ekeler had been a very big key to the Chargers lead that game, but Melvin Gordon is the stronger and more experienced back. This kind of decision making baffles me when it comes to Ken Whisenhunt’s thought process. I again question his presence just minutes later when on a third and eight that will seal you the game, the Chargers decide to run the exact same play that didn’t work on second down. This kind of “play it safe” mentality has plagued the Chargers for years and will continue to do so unless someone speaks up. I’m sure there are plenty of other glaring holes in the Chargers that I’m forgetting, but these are the two that stood out to me.

Injury Concerns

Honestly, this is mainly about one player. And that is Philip Rivers. Early Monday afternoon, it was announced that future Hall-Of-Fame quarterback, Philip Rivers entered concussion protocol following Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars. This raises a big red flag. Because if Rivers is out for any sort of game action, you can nearly call it a season for the Chargers. Los Angeles is basically fighting for their lives out there and any loss could prove fatal to their playoff hopes. So losing your star player and catalyst for the offensive production doesn’t bode well. Also, I have a hard time remembering the last time Kellen Clemens took a meaningful NFL snap due to Rivers absurdly healthy career.

Philip Rivers #17 of the Chargers calls a play at the line of scrimmage during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (Haffey/Getty Images)

However, Rivers (if out) will not be the only missing piece for Los Angeles heading into this game as Chargers’ tackle, Joe Barksdale will miss his second straight week with a foot injury. This is a very underrated loss as we all saw how badly the Chargers struggled to run the ball last week without him. Much of that can obviously be contributed to Jacksonville’s elite front, but the loss of Barksdale was very noticeable. If Rivers is indeed out versus Buffalo, that offensive line will need to step up big time to give this team a chance.

History Vs. Buffalo

This is a rare matchup between these two teams as the past ten matchups between them dates back to 1985. But nonetheless, in the 2000’s era, the Chargers have won five out of eight games versus the Bills with the most recent coming in 2014. In the overall series, the Chargers are leading winning 23 out of 37 matchups. Although both teams have changed drastically since their last game, hopefully, this gives you some insight into the history of these two clubs.

Quick Game Notes

– Los Angeles is a four point favorite as of Tuesday morning.
– The Bills are currently sitting with a 5-4 record.
– Game will be played in Carson, at the Stubhub Center.
– Chargers may be without Rivers, and for sure without Barksdale.

Travis Baker is a Staff Writer and covers the Los Angeles Chargers for cover32.com/Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @SportsFollower0

 


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