The Chargers face a tough task this week, having blown a 21 point lead against the rival Kansas City Chiefs, they now play a huge bounce back game against an up and coming Jacksonville Jaguars team.
These teams played in 2015 and Philip Rivers had a career game with 300 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, in a game that the Chargers won 31-25, snapping a six game losing streak. All of that was done without Keenan Allen, and Melvin Gordon had one of his best rushing games averaging 4.3 yards per carry. The Chargers will not have their leading receiver from that game Stevie Johnson, who had a great game but they will have Antonio Gates, who had two touchdowns, and have added Travis Benjamin and Hunter Henry.
The Jaguars have an offense that took the biggest leap in the 2015, going from 31st in points per game in 2014 to having the 14th most last season. This offense is loaded with playmakers, but it is led by Blake Bortles who is coming off of the best season of his young career passing for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns last season. His number one option, Allen Robinson, is one of the elite receivers in the league right now coming off of a league leading 14 touchdown reception season, including one against the bolts. Robinson had a ridiculous fifteen targets in a week one loss to the Packers, so John Pagano’s defense can bank on him getting double digit targets this week, and limit him the best they can.
One of the most important pieces to the Jacksonville’s running game is their big offseason acquisition Chris Ivory, but he will not play so instead T.J. Weldon will get the start. The Chargers held to only 36 rushing yards, on nine carries last season, but ha can be a threat in the passing game, where San Diego’s linebackers struggled in week one. Another guy that was a mismatch in 2015 when these teams played was Julius Thomas who killed the Chargers with 9 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. At 6’5, he will cause similar problems to what Travis Kelce did last week, but he has been limited in practice so the Bolts will hope that slows him down.
On offense for the Chargers, look for new receiver Travis Benjamin, who now finds himself sliding into the number one wide receiver slot, to potentially break out against the Jags this week. Last week he caught all seven of his targets for only 32 yards, his longest catch being 8 yards. Look for the Chargers to use him early and often in this game, and for a speedster like him his average should be much higher than last week. I think that the Chargers showed last week that the running backs will be used as a two-headed monster with Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead having them combine for 30 carries and for 146 yards, and 3 touchdowns in week one. Philip Rivers should have a strong game considering in their last three meetings he hasn’t lost or thrown in interception, while also passing for 962 yards and 8 touchdowns. This is hands down the best Jaguars team they have played, but i expect the offensive game plan to be similar to last years game.
On defense for the Jaguars the one guy that you will see all over the field is inside linebacker Paul Posluszny. Coming off a year in which he had 133 combined tackles, and 3 interceptions, he will have a chess match with Philip Rivers at the line of scrimmage, setting up this athletic but young defense. The Jaguars will look to 2015 first round pick Dante Fowler Jr., to try and stir up some kind of pass rush after the team managed only one sack against Aaron Rodgers last week, and allowed him to pick them apart all game. In the secondary Jacksonville is a little banged up with Prince Amukamara out for this game with a hamstring injury and rookie fifth overall pick, Jalen Ramsey, still trying to fully recover from a nagging ankle injury. This defense held a volatile Packers offense to 24 points, but will have another challenge this week going against a Chargers team that scored 27, and gave up no sacks or turnovers last week.
This week the Chargers defense will have to bounce back from a game in which the Chiefs scored on their last four drives, including overtime, after giving up just 3 points in the first half. Jason Verrett will have huge task this week, more than likely shadowing star wide receiver Allen Robinson, who had 5 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in their last matchup. Verrett gave up a touchdown last week, I would be surprised if he was scored on two weeks in a row. One huge challenge for San Diego’s defense will be the linebackers matched up in man to man coverage, after Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman struggled mightily against the Chiefs. I hope to see rookie Jatavis Brown get on the field on third and long distance situations, since he might already be their best coverage linebacker even though he’s undersized
If the Chargers are to win this game, they will have to show a competent offense without Keenan Allen and hope that it’s defense can stop a team for the entire game, and not just the first half. Mike McCoy must feel the heat at this point so hopefully it will make him more aggressive, and he coaches as if his job depends on it, because it probably does. This will not be easy game for the Chargers, but the offensive line is healthy and looking good and Melvin Gordon seems to have confidence so I believe the Bolts can get back to the .500 mark with a 27-23 win.
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