San Diego Chargers (4-6) at Houston Texans (6-4)
Sunday November 27, 2016 10:00 AM CBS
NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
The San Diego Chargers lost a heart-breaking game last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins in which Philip Rivers threw an uncharacteristic four interceptions in the fourth quarter, sealing the fate of the Chargers’ game, and perhaps their season.
A 4-6 record, with the talent in the AFC West, is a death sentence for this team. The Chargers are bringing up the rear in a division in which they have already lost to each higher ranked team this season. The Chargers did split with the Broncos, but at this point the team needs to win out and have luck on their side to even consider a playoff appearance.
The Houston Texans are coming off a loss to the Oakland Raiders on national television in which the Texans were victimized by the referees on multiple occasions. The game, which aired on MNF, was a horrible example of how the replay system is failing the supposedly progressive NFL. The league continues to fall behind when it comes to making correct judgements and changes for the betterment of its teams and players. It’s really gotten comical to watch these referees and officials blow calls on a nightly basis.
The Texans feel like they were robbed, and they are not too happy about it. The Chargers have had two weeks to prepare for the Texans, so this has “physical matchup” written all over it. The Texans will surely come out aggressive at home, and the Chargers will be angry after giving away a game to Miami the last time they took the field.
Brock Osweiler leads the Texans, and the tall quarterback has been under some scrutiny so far this year. He has thrown some very questionable passes this season and that leaves many to believe the Texans overpaid for him when they gave him a $72 million dollar contract ($37 guaranteed) this past off-season.
On Sunday, these two teams will battle in Texas, which will be a very important game for the Bolts. A loss would surely end their season, even though some will not admit it until they are mathematically eliminated. The constant injuries have just become too much to deal with. This team has many issues currently that need to be resolved. They cannot constantly find a new way to lose games. It is demoralizing losing games in this manner, and sadly, the only way to end the situation is for a new regime to take over in the locker room. At this point the team needs something or someone to light a fire under them and show appreciation for the history of this franchise. I seriously question if Mike McCoy is that man.
Chargers on Offense
The Texans defense has been really solid this year against the pass. Philip Rivers will have trouble locating the open receiver downfield, and the Bolts will probably rely on a heavy ground attack. The team signed Ronnie Hillman this week and that shows you that the coaching staff will focus on pounding the ball against the Texans. Hillman should help lighten the load that Gordon has been carrying all season. Melvin Gordon is currently at 217 carries, which is second only to Ezekiel Elliott (223) in all of the NFL, and he surely needs a handcuff to take the load off his shoulders. Hillman runs pretty hard between the tackles despite being a smaller sized back. He should provide a decent compliment to Gordon. Another one to keep an eye on is Antonio Gates, who is two TDs shy of tying Tony Gonzalez‘s record (111) for all-time TD at the tight end position. Look for Rivers to try to find his old friend when the Bolts are in the red zone. Brian Cushing is the man in the middle for the Texans linebacking corp. Look for him to shadow Gordon all day and make a ton of tackles.
Chargers on Defense
The Texans offense has been very average this season despite having some decent weapons on offense. Free agent RB Lamar Miller was brought in to shore up the RB position and he has produced (192 carries for 824 yards and three touchdowns). The loss of Brandon Mebane is huge as the Chargers will now lean on Damion Square to take his place. Brock Osweiler was also signed as a free agent this past off season, to end a QB carousel that has plagued the Texans for a long time. Osweiler is 216 for 363 (59.5%) for 2,061 yards. He has thrown 12 TDs and 10 interceptions while recording a 74.9 passer rating. He has been steady, but really nothing more than average at the position. Those numbers were amassed while having a healthy DeAndre Hopkins on the squad. The talented WR is one of the better receivers in the league and it is only a matter of time before they start to develop chemistry. Watch for the Chargers to double Hopkins and contain him. The safeties Dwight Lowery and Jahleel Addae will be busy as well keeping an eye on the WR.
Players to Watch
He is presently tied for third in the NFL with 11 TD’s and should add to that total on Sunday. The Texans have trouble stopping the run despite having a huge presence in the middle of their defense. Vince Wilfork is a huge NT, with great agility up front. The Chargers will try to run off tackle and utilize Derek Watt in this game. I would expect a few carries for Watt, as well as newcomer Ronnie Hillman, but Gordon will definitely carry the load. Expect a big game from Gordon as the coaching staff understands that throwing the ball will be tough against this defense. Feed Gordon the rock.
The former #1 overall pick out of South Carolina has had an injury issue but seems to be finally coming into form. Without J.J. Watt on the other side, he is finding it difficult to get to the QB, but he is making great strides in his growth as a player. He has a very active motor and the O-Line will need to continue blocking him all the way to the whistle. He often slides down the line on running plays and is very capable of making a tackle.
The rookie has been quiet the last few weeks, as teams are starting to adjust their blocking schemes around him. He still has very fresh legs from missing the first handful of games. Bosa should be a factor on Sunday as Osweilier has trouble recognizing the defense from time to time. Expect coach Pagano to use some new blitz formations to rattle the young QB. If he can get some favorable matchups on Bosa, the young lineman will have a huge game against the Texans.
Matchup to Watch
Hayward has been fantastic this season for the Bolts. With the struggles the Green Bay Packers have had on defense, especially in the backfield, it is truly amazing that Tom Telesco wrangled him away from the NFC North. Hayward went from the #3 cornerback on the team to the legit #1. With the loss of Jason Verrett and the injuries to Brandon Flowers, he has stepped in and covered the opposing team’s #1 receivers with ease. This week he will be challenged, as he will go against DeAndre Hopkins, who has been eerily quiet this season (50 receptions for 540 yards and three TDs). To me, that is scary, as Hopkins is due for a breakout game. The Chargers have been beaten downfield many times this year and Hopkins has the speed and ability to do just that continually. Hayward will be tested often and he will need to shadow the talented WR for the Chargers to even have a chance.
This will be a tough game. The Chargers are favored presently, but the odds makers obviously haven’t watched this team on a weekly basis like we have. This game will come down to health. If the Chargers hurt players (Denzel Perryman, Travis Benjamin, Jahleel Addae, Jatavis Brown) can make it through the game, then they have a chance to pull this one out in Texas. Rivers will have trouble throwing the ball and crowd noise could become a factor if the Chargers fall behind early. With all that being said, Melvin Gordon will go off in this game, rushing for nearly 150 yards as the Chargers offense is too much to handle for the Texans D. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the loss of Mebane will be huge as well, as Lamar Miller balances out the Texans offense and DeAndre Hopkins also becomes a huge factor in the game. I see a Chargers miracle victory late in the game on a blocked punt or fumble return for TD. Something weird will happen in the fourth quarter, resulting in a 37-35 victory for the Chargers.