After an embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Chargers find themselves sitting at 7-7. Their playoff hopes are in more danger now, but they are hardly out of the chase either. Assuming the 8-6 Chiefs do not blow their final two games, the Chargers can still fight for a wildcard spot. But they will have to win the final two games to have much of a shot. This week they are facing the 5-9 New York Jets. Due to the Jets being depleted by injuries, this is not likely to be a difficult game. Still, here are the ways in which they can ensure their victory.
Week 16 Los Angeles Chargers Keys to Victory
Let the Defense Feast
The Jets are missing their starting quarterback Josh McCown. They started this 38-year-old journeyman over their younger ones for a reason—neither of them are very good. Bryce Petty is expected to start again. This should be a good opportunity for the defense to feast and get some turnovers. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram should be in prime position to get some pressure and sacks.
A couple of Jets receivers (Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse) had actually been doing pretty good lately. However, neither of them were able to get much done with Petty throwing to them. And with Casey Hayward out there in coverage, one of them (likely Anderson) is going to be basically totally shut down. With Petty likely to be pressured frequently, this is a good opportunity for Hayward to grab an interception. Others may likely get their opportunity as well. The point here is cause and effect—send the defensive linemen after the quarterback frequently with some blitzing, and there will be sacks and turnovers as a result.
Balance Out the Offense
Lately the Chargers have been leaning more directly on the passing game with Philip Rivers. This has been a very good thing. However, in the loss to the Chiefs, they also lost the tight end Hunter Henry for the remainder of the season. This might present a problem because he was essentially Rivers’ second favorite target after Keenan Allen. Antonio Gates is not what he used to be. Elsewhere in the receiving core, Tyrell Williams has been inconsistent and no one else has really done much in the last few games.
What this should lead to is balancing out the offense a bit more than they have been. Give Melvin Gordon some more carries. The Jets run defense is not particularly tough, so getting him going should not be any more difficult than usual. Take some of the pressure off Rivers, since he has now lost one of his most dependable targets. Allen should not have much issue putting up a good performance. However, it is anyone’s guess as to whom will step up to be the reliable second option.
Do Not Take the Foot Off the Gas Pedal
This has not really been an issue for the Chargers during the latter half of the season, but they still have been known to slow down after taking a big lead and thus sometimes the other team gets back into the game. They have no room for that kind of error at this point. They have the ability to put the game out of reach completely here, so they should not let up just because they go up by two scores or some other score that is easier to come back from.
This would also coincide directly with not playing down to the competition. Just because the Jets are not likely to give the Chargers much trouble does not mean they should relax. This is basically do or die now. They’re lucky at 7-7 to even have the opportunity to still fight for a playoff spot.
Meanwhile, as the Chargers try to win their final two games, they will be watching the other AFC wild card contenders. They will be hoping for either the Baltimore Ravens or Tennessee Titans (both 8-6) to drop their final two games, as they would hold tiebreakers over the Chargers. They do not have to worry as much about the Buffalo Bills (also 8-6), as they would hold the tiebreaker over them and the Bills play the New England Patriots this weekend. The Chargers can also can hope for the Chiefs to drop their final two games as well, though that seems less likely.
The bottom line is that the Chargers should not have much issue pulling out this win. But they still need to be sure to bring their best effort to help themselves keep their playoff hopes while they hope for help. Doing the key things described above might just help them do that.