By Joe Messineo
Having won three of their last four games, the San Diego Chargers are now 4-5 on the year and are attempting to mount a playoff run over the final seven weeks of the season. That task would have been so much easier had they not allowed four earlier winnable games to slip away in the closing minutes.
This week’s opponent will be the Miami Dolphins and, while the Chargers have momentum, off-the-field circumstances may play a role in the game’s atmosphere. That’s because a vote to construct a new stadium takes place on Tuesday, with rejection potentially dooming the team to lame-duck status for the rest of that year. Below are four things to look for on Sunday:
Run, Run, Run
While neither leads an offense considered to be at the top of the league, both quarterbacks are capable of sending the ball deep. That said, the greater likelihood is that both teams focus on their respective running games. The reason is simple: the run defense of the Dolphins has struggled and Melvin Gordon is coming off a career-best 196 yards on a workhorse 32 carries. On the flip side, Miami’s running game has become a key to their offense, having averaged 205 yards per game during their current three-game winning streak. Brandon Mebane’s performance up front for the Chargers may serve as a gauge of success.
Jarvis Landry vs. Chargers Secondary
Landry is the Dolphins’ leading receiver this season with 49 catches and 605 yards, despite having only reached the end zone once in 2016. The San Diego secondary, led by cornerbacks Casey Heyward and Brandon Flowers are a formidable duo. Heyward’s five interceptions puts him tied at the top of that specific category and Flowers is coming off a game in which his pick-six sealed the win over the Tennessee Titans.
Where is Joey Bosa?
After having gotten off to an injury-plagued start due to his lengthy holdout, the team’s top selection (and third overall pick) has lived up to his press clippings. While his main role has been on the defensive line, he’s versatile enough to also fill in at outside linebacker from time to time. The Chargers may choose to keep Miami guessing exactly where he’s situated prior to a play call.
Philip Rivers vs. Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake
Rivers is an experienced quarterbacks, but he’s been struggled when he has to contend with constant pressure. Suh and Wake lead the Dolphins in sacks, having combined for 9.5 on the year, while Wake has also forced three fumbles. Rivers has been sacked 22 times in 2016, so the offensive line needs to find a way to neutralize these two defenders. If they can do so, the Chargers will come out of the weekend at .500.