Last week left fans with a sour taste in their mouth, and the number one thing that they can do to make us forget about that would be to win this week, but that will not come easy. The Chargers (1-2) square off against the New Orleans Saints (0-3) who are coming off of a tough loss on Monday Night Football against the Falcons. One of the many lessons that the Bolts learned last week is that a winless team, is a desperate team and that is dangerous. Former San Diego quarterback Drew Brees comes to town, once again leading one of the top offenses in the league, but also one of the worst defenses.
This will be Drew Brees’ first game back at Qualcomm since he left the team in 2006, and it is sure to be an emotional game in which Brees will try to show the Chargers first hand what they passed up on over a decade ago.
The Saints offense through three weeks has led the NFL in passing yards (341.7), and is top ten in points scored as well. Brandin Cooks has been Brees’ most consistent target so far this season, and is one the most explosive players in the league with a 98-yard touchdown reception under his belt already. He has some competition as Willie Snead V has burst onto the scene this year with 14 catches for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns, averaging 16.1 yards per catch. Oh yeah, and he did that in only two games having missed their last game against the Falcons with a toe injury. Snead is expected to play on Sunday, and the Chargers will hope that he is slowed down enough to help out a secondary that struggled last week. Another player that has been a staple to the Saints high scoring offense the last few seasons is running back Mark Ingram. Usually a goal line threat, Ingram surprisingly has zero rushing touchdowns so far this season, but has become a much more competent pass catcher with a career high 50 catches last season and 10 so far this year.
On offense for the Chargers the most important factor this week will be the health of the offensive line, which looked much different last week without left tackle King Dunlap. This week three of its starting lineman are dealing with injuries with Dunlap out for this game with migraines, while right tackle Joe Barksdale and left guard Orlando Franklin are both questionable to play this week. This is bad news for Melvin Gordon who is trying to get back on track after averaging only 2.2 yards per carry against the Colts. There is some good news for Gordon however as he is about to face the worst rushing defense in the league, with New Orleans allowing 448 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground through three games. Another key to the offense will be the timing between Philip Rivers and his receivers after a week where he missed several easy throws. Rivers has almost none of his top receivers from last season so naturally it will take them time to get synchronized, but it should be better this week after another week of guys like Tyrell Williams and Hunter Henry taking all of the first team reps.
On defense for the Saints, lets just say, its been a rough year. New Orleans has been ravaged by injuries already this year having multiple defensive starters on injured reserve, and so far they haven’t been able recover. Through three weeks the Saints have the worst rushing defense in the league, while also giving up the second most points per game (32) and the second most total yards (448.3). They do have some playmakers like captain defensive end Cameron Jordan who has 1.5 sacks and a safety so far, and linebacker Craig Robertson who already has 37 total tackles this season. Overall this is a defense that is lacking talent and is a huge reason for the teams winless start.
This is a big week for the Chargers defense as they will have to challenge one of the best offenses in the league a week after losing it’s signal caller and defensive captain Manti Te’o. With Te’o out, and another week without Joey Bosa, they will have to hope Jatavis Brown can play this week as he is dealing with a hamstring injury. If he can play he is the Chargers best coverage linebacker and has shown he can be a playmaker, stripping Andrew Luck last week. Whether Brown plays or not look for fellow rookie Joshua Perry to be active on game day for the first time this season. The Chargers secondary struggled last week, including Jason Verrett, and for the season they have given up an average of 332 passing yards per game, which is third worst in the league. The pass rush has to take some blame as well, but the Chargers defensive backs will have to have a good game facing some dangerous receivers.
The Saints have struggled on the road going 10-15 dating back to 2013, and have looked like a different team offensively. That being said the Saints are treating this as a must win game this week, and with Drew Brees and Sean Payton they are never out of a game. Still, the Chargers should be able to impose their will on this defense, San Diego wins 33-30.