The Los Angeles Chargers are looking to get back above .500 as they take to the road for the final time this regular season to visit the New York Jets. The Chargers continue to cling to slim playoff hopes. The Jets, however, have been mathematically eliminated from postseason play.
As both teams prepare to compete on Christmas Eve, here are a few items on which fans should keep a sharp eye.
For the Chargers…
Philip Rivers continues to play lights-out football. The Chargers signal-caller has completed 310 of 498 attempts (62-percent) for 3,838 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions for a 93.8 passer rating. He needs only 162 yards to become the fourth player in NFL history to eclipse 4,000 yards in nine straight seasons. One of Rivers’ most reliable targets this year has been wide-receiver Keenan Allen. Allen is 12 catches away from tying the team record for receptions in a single season. He currently has 88 on the year. He has also recorded 1,197 yards and caught five touchdown passes.
However, the news not all been merry and bright for the Bolts offense. The team must find a way to replace Hunter Henry after he was lost for the season with a small laceration on his kidney. The tight end ranked third on the team in receptions (45) and receiving yards (579), and was tied for second with four TD catches. On the ground, Melvin Gordon has a chance to record his first 1,000-yard season. The third-year running back has carried the ball 248 times for 931 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Bolts rank third in the NFL in total points allowed with 255 (18.2 ppg). The last time they finished ranked in the top 5 in the NFL was in 2007, when they ranked fifth in the league (17.8). Pro Bowl starter Joey Bosa leads the way, notching 61 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. His 11.5 sacks rank fifth in the NFL while his four forced fumbles rank third. Meanwhile, Casey Hayward leads the NFL with 20 passes-defended and is tied for seventh with four picks.
A New Face in the Crowd
Earlier this week, the Chargers waived kicker Travis Coons. Coons had made seven of eight field-goal attempts and five of six extra-point tries. However, the Bolts apparently believe they have a better option in the form of Nick Rose. Rose converted 10 of 11 field goals while filling in for an injured Dustin Hopkins with the Redskins the past couple months. He becomes the fourth starting kicker for the Chargers in 2017.
For the Jets…
With Josh McCown lost for the season, Bryce Petty will handle the duties at quarterback. Last week against the New Orleans Saints, Petty completed 19 of 39 attempts for 179 yards, one TD, and two interceptions. Meanwhile, running back Bilal Powell leads the team in rushing with 581 yards on 146 carries for four touchdowns. Look for the Jets to attempt to move the ball on the ground. After all, the Chargers defense is ranked 30th in the NFL at stopping the run. If the Jets hope to mount an aerial attack, wide-receiver Robby Anderson’s resume of 57 receptions for 888 yards and seven touchdowns make him a viable option.
While much of the attention goes to Leonard Williams and Muhammed Wilkerson, Jamal Adams, and Demario Davis have been New York’s most potent defensive players. The linebacker has totaled 117 tackles (seventh in the league) and 5.0 sacks. In addition, he is tied for fourth in the NFL with 84 solo tackles. If Adams and fellow rookie Marcus Maye can continue their recent strong play, they might just hold Rivers in check. If they can do so, the Jets may be able to pull off the victory.