The San Diego Chargers (3-5) will take on the Tennessee Titans (4-4) this week at Qualcomm stadium. This is a pivotal game for Philip Rivers and company, as the bolts are just barely hanging on to their playoff hopes. Let's take a look at some of the positional matchups that could have a major impact on the outcome of the final score.
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram vs. Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan
The Chargers will need to generate a steady pass rush this week against the Titans, as quarterback Marcus Mariota is too good when given time. That may prove difficult against Tennessee's pair of offensive tackles, Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan, who are ranked as the 3rd and 4th OT's respectively by ProFootballFocus. Last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, thanks in large part to Conklin and Lewan (neither of whom have given up a sack this season), the Titans did not allow a sack or QB hit and Mariota was only hurried five times. As a result, the second-year signal caller was able to complete 18 of 22 passes (81.8% completion) for 270 yards, 2 touchdowns, and a 148.1 passer rating.
That cannot happen this week against the Chargers. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram need to be disruptive, as both have shown they can be. Ingram at times can look like one of the top pass rushers in football, and they will need that from him for 60 minutes this week. Joey Bosa has been an absolute terror in his first four games as a pro. He is constantly in the backfield around the quarterback and has already gotten home four times. The bolts will need him to continue playing at that level against Tennessee.
Chargers Linebackers vs Titans Running Backs
It's possible the Chargers will be without both starting inside linebackers, Denzel Perryman and Jatavis Brown. Not good news when facing the 3rd ranked rushing team in the NFL. Will Korey Toomer and rookie Joshua Perry be up for the challenge? Toomer has been a nice addition to the team, and while he doesn't bring quite the level of play that Perryman or Brown provide, he is solid and I am comfortable with him on the field. Perry has been mostly decent when he gets on the field. It will be a major challenge for him and Toomer this week as they face the task of bringing down DeMarco Murray and rookie running back Derrick Henry (you might remember Henry gashing the Chargers defense in the preseason opener).
The Titans backfield duo went off last week against the Jaguars. Murray was able to pile up 123 yards rushing on 21 attempts for an average of 5.9 yards per pop, and he was able to find the end zone once on a spectacular run. Derrick Henry found the end zone as well and added 60 yards on 16 carries. Containing these two will be no easy task for the Chargers.
Chargers receivers vs. Titans secondary
The Tennessee Titans are ranked 10th in the league in total defense and claim the 5th best run defense unit. However, they are in the bottom half of the league when it comes to passing defense and that is what the Chargers offense should look to exploit. It is unclear at this point which receivers the Chargers will have available to them on game day, but you can bet Rivers will get whoever is active involved. The Titans secondary has been banged up in recent weeks, with safety Rashad Johnson and cornerback Perrish Cox both missing last week’s game. This unit has a tendency to give up some chunk plays, and if the bolts offensive line can let Rivers go a whole play without getting hit, El Capitan should be able to pick apart the Titans passing defense and put some points on the board.
I don't think this is going to be an easy game for the Chargers. Though I do think they have what it takes to get it done. If the players mentioned above are able to win their matchups, the Chargers should be able to take the W at home.