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Talent / Shootout
A question I ask myself before every San Diego Chargers game is: If this turns into a shootout, how confident am I that the Chargers will win?
With Josh McCown and...Isaiah Crowell?....the Cleveland Browns don't have a lot of offensive threats outside of Travis Benjamin.
Meanwhile, the Chargers have Philip Rivers acting as conductor for playmakers like Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Danny Woodhead, and Ladarius Green. Those are all guys that, if they can find some open field with the ball in their hands, can make game-changing plays.
I feel much better rooting for the team with lots of offensive weapons that has underperformed thus far rather than, well, the one that doesn't have those things. A shootout would be fine with me.
Rush Defense / Melvin Ingram
This one is two-fold.
First of all, the Chargers' rush defense looked a hell of a lot better up the gut with Ryan Carrethers out there against the Vikings than in the games when he was inactive. Hopefully, that keeps up.
Luckily, the Chargers won't have much of a test this week. According to Football Outsiders, the Browns tout the 28th best rushing attack in a league of 32 teams.
Barring some unforeseen circumstances, the Chargers should be able to stop the Browns' rushing attack and get them into some 3rd & long situations. As I've said before, San Diego's best pass rusher (Melvin Ingram) is really only useful in these obvious passing downs. The Vikings and Bengals didn't have many of them, so he was held in check, but this game against Cleveland could be another big one like the Lions' game was for him.
Must Win Game
The Browns know that they're not going to the playoffs this year. Have you looked at their roster? At their schedule? This is very much a rebuilding season for that franchise.
The Chargers, however, have hopes of turning their 1-2 record into something that guarantees them some meaningful games in January. That absolutely has to start on Sunday. Going 1-3 with a loss to the Browns at home is basically a sign to fire the coaching staff and start building a new team (without Antonio Gates and Eric Weddle). Not immediately, but it would be near impossible for the team to recover from it.
When you want to know which team will win a game between evenly-matched teams, go with the one that needs it more. So far this year, the Chargers and Browns have been evenly matched. This week, the Chargers need it more.