After another wonderful win against the Bengals, the Chargers are gearing up for what looks to be their most important and pivotal game of the regular season. While most Chargers faithful had this date circled on the calendar before the season began, it has been incredible to see the Chargers continue to catch up to the Chiefs after a really tough starting slate in 2018.
There are a number of very important items on the line for this Thursday’s game: Not only the fate of the AFC West (the Chiefs would still have to lose another game, but a win this week would seal it for them). On the brighter side, the Chargers also have the door open for the #1 seed in the AFC if they win out (and have a few dominoes fall their way). Oh, and one final thing— a win this week clinches a playoff spot for the Bolts.
However, both the Chiefs and the Chargers will be hurting at one of their positions of strength this season: Running Back.
The Chiefs ditched the baggage of Kareem Hunt, and deservedly so, and that has left a bit of a vacuum that hasn’t filled quite well with Spencer Ware and Damien Williams. They have reason to be optimistic, but RB is not the threat the offense had become used to.
And the Chargers have been without Melvin Gordon III, who was enjoying a breakout year before missing action since November 25 because of a knee injury. In his absense, capable running back Austin Ekeler has been doing double the work he has been used to this year. He took 66 on the ground and 28 through the air—not bad for a $555k salary!
However, reports began to storm in that Ekeler suffered a neck ‘stinger’ during the game, and his week 15 presence would be questionable. Neither Gordon nor Ekeler practiced Monday, when more grim reports began to surface. Austin Ekeler entered the concussion protocol on Monday, and that is in addition to his prior woes.
Austin Ekeler experienced concussion symptoms today and now part of concussion protocol. https://t.co/h2xT3yko5R— Eric Williams (@eric_d_williams) December 11, 2018
It’s pretty clear that things look grim for Ekeler’s availability this week. But what about Gordon, who theoretically is day to day?
The Chargers are not optimistic that running backs Melvin Gordon (knee) and Austin Ekeler (neck, concussion) will be ready for Thursday's huge AFC West matchup at Kansas City, HC Anthony Lynn told me. Rookie RBs Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome likely to be the spot— Steve Wyche (@wyche89) December 11, 2018
The fact of the matter is that things don’t look good for a rushing attack on Thursday, but coach Anthony Lynn is a bit too wiley to give Andy Reid too much of a game planning cookie: he is giving some positive indications that Gordon could be back.
#Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn on status of Melvin Gordon:— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) December 11, 2018
There's always a chance & I'll tell you he's running around on the side & he's looking good. He's chomping at the bit & wants to go, but we'll have to make that decision in the next couple of days & see where he's at pic.twitter.com/O8zBUYQm7F
In any event, Chargers fans should brace for an aerial showdown on Thursday evening, as both teams feature capable signal callers. There is an outside chance that one or both of the Chargers’ featured running backs can make the game, but it would be quite the surprise if they are up to speed by Thursday.
-Jason “Run it Anyway” Michaels