San Diego Chargers (5-9) at Cleveland Browns (0-14)
Saturday December 24, 2016 10:00 AM CBS
FirstEnergy Stadium Cleveland, Ohio
Fresh off a demoralizing loss at home against the Oakland Raiders, the Bolts head east to Ohio to battle the Cleveland Browns.
Things just got worse from that point on, as injuries have decimated this once promising roster. Coach McCoy’s job is in serious doubt ,and rightfully so, as the team has blown fourth quarter leads at will this 2016 season. Yes, the injuries have been a factor, but the stale play from the team and the constant finger-pointing in the player’s direction by the coach dictate that a change is needed.
If the Chargers lose this week in Cleveland, his job is most certainly gone. I doubt the team will make any changes before the end of the season, but they will explore that option once the relocation mess is stabilized.
The Browns could be a difficult opponent on Saturday. This is their last home game of the year, and probably their last decent chance at a win. The Chargers cannot afford to start slow, and weather could be a factor. Conditions presently call for rain and a temperature in the 30’s. It will be a cold, wet day and the Bolts will need to hold onto the ball and limit turnovers.
Chargers on Offense
Philip Rivers needs time, and the line must give him that in order for the Chargers to be successful. The Browns will try to blitz Rivers, and the condition of the field could come into play. Keeping their feet beneath them may be difficult for the Chargers’ O-Line, but they must communicate and keep their heads on a swivel. Melvin Gordon is not good to go this week, so the Chargers will rely on Kenneth Farrow and Ronnie Hillman at the running back position. Hillman had some decent runs last week against the Raiders, and will be utilized more this week as he gets familiar with the offense. Farrow will be the goal line and short yardage back. Dontrelle Inman has emerged in recent weeks and looks to be one of Rivers’ favorite targets of late. Look for Joe Haden to shadow him on Saturday.
Chargers on Defense
The return of Jatavis Brown and Denzel Perryman in the middle of the defense has brought some fierceness back to this unit. Korey Toomer did well in the middle when each linebacker was out, and he provides the team with an adequate backup. Kyle Emanuel has also stepped up his game in recent weeks and is someone to keep an eye on. Joey Bosa continues to impress, and the opposing team’s defense has to focus on him each and every week. That has allowed Melvin Ingram to get one on one matchups, and he has capitalized. Containing Robert Griffin will be a chore against the Browns. He is not as quick as he once was, but he can still tuck the ball and get yards when needed.
Players to Watch
Robert Griffin III
The man has ability, but has been killed by injuries. He shows flashes of his former self, but at the same time, he makes horrible mistakes with the ball. The Chargers will try to get in his face and make him force the ball downfield. They have an excellent chance to continue their turnover streak this week, as Griffin is a turnover machine.
The rookie has emerged as a force in the NFL. Expect Bosa to earn a sack on Saturday and also expect him to be all over the field. This is his return to Ohio, where he played college football (Ohio State) and he is motivated to put on a show. Shrug life will be in full effect.
The former Raiders’ quarterback has turned into a weapon as a wide receiver. He goes up for the ball really well and will be shadowed by Casey Hayward on Saturday. Griffin tries to force-feed Prior at times, so a pick for Hayward seems likely. At the very least, he will have plenty of action his way. The play of safeties Dwight Lowery and Jahleel Addae will also be important as they try to keep Pryor in check.
He needs three touchdown catches to get into the record books for most TD’s by a tight end in NFL history. The Chargers should be drawing up plays to get him the ball on Saturday in Cleveland. In the red zone, expect Rivers to look Gates’ way often. The Browns are aware of the situation too, so expect them to double team Gates. This will be an interesting factor to watch in this rainy, cold Christmas Eve game.
Matchup To Watch
Robert Griffin vs Chargers’ Inside Linebacker
Someone has to keep Griffin in check and that will task will be on the middle linebackers. Perryman and Brown cannot let Griffin get lose. They must keep him within the pocket in order for Bosa and Ingram to do their damage. Both young LB’s will need to be disciplined and not get caught out of position while patrolling the middle of the field. This is a solid test for these young men, as Griffin is quick and elusive.
The Chargers will come into Cleveland and manhandle the winless Browns. Well, at least that is what is supposed to happen. That particular result will be highly unlikely, even though the Chargers have a superior team to the Browns. Instead, the Chargers will play a back and forth game with the Browns in which both teams will turn the ball over multiple times in the rain. The fourth quarter will come around, and the Chargers will have the lead as usual. Will they hold on to it? Feeling the pressure of giving the Browns their first win, the Chargers will crumble 27-23 and once again the #FireMcCoy talk will begin. But management will do nothing, as the team prepares for its season finally against the Chiefs. Whether or not McCoy survives Black Monday is another thing. He should be looking for a moving van, and that has nothing to do with the Chargers’ stadium issues.