Each season, we preview the games by looking at three reasons the Chargers will win and lose each week. Here is why they will lose.
T.J. Watt and the Pittsburgh pass rush
The Los Angeles Charges currently feature one of the worst offensive lines in the National Football League. One of the only bright spots was Mike Pouncey who was recently placed on Injured Reserve. That leaves Dan Feeney trying to become a center. This, at least, gets Forrest Lamp into the lineup in Feeney’s vacated role as left guard, but the injury to their best lineman is almost certainly a net negative. Offensive tackles Trent Scott and Sam Tevi have been just as bad as everyone knew they would be coming into the season, while right guard Michael Schofield has been worse than the mediocre player we all hoped he could continue to be.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, you’ll find a Steelers defense that is one of the NFL’s best. It is really difficult to picture anyone in lightning bolts competently blocking Watt, and the Chargers will have to rely as they often do on Philip Rivers’ otherworldly quick release to keep him standing.
Denzel Perryman and Thomas Davis
Gus Bradley has a bottom-10 rushing defense, and a big part of that is his continued insistence to give a high percentage of snaps to Perryman and Davis. Both players are inarguably solid leaders and are well respected by their peers. Both players are also really slow, and Perryman, at least, takes bad angles and whiffs on multiple tackles per game. Some will point to Davis’ high tackle totals as proof that he is having a good year, but those are the same people that point to RBI totals in baseball. Without context, those numbers are almost meaningless. And, unfortunately, the context of Davis’ tackles is that thanks to his lack of speed, his are taking place after the offense has already succeeded. Think of him as Manti Te’o if Manti had actually been good for a number of years before coming to the Chargers.
Now, the Chargers will at least get to face a Pittsburgh offense that is missing Jaylen Samuels and has a banged up James Conner, but would you really be surprised if they get carved up by Benny Snell? Okay, probably a little, but the general point still stands.
Injuries in the Secondary
The continued absence of superstar do-it-all defensive back Derwin James is, rather unsurprisingly, still a pain point for a unit that was expected to be a strength this year. Instead, the “Jack Boys” are a bottom-10 pass defense. Casey Hayward and Desmond King are both really good. Nasir Adderley has a ton of potential. Rayshawn Jenkins is roughly average (which is not a dig). Everybody else is really, really bad. Unfortunately, having at least two DBs on the field that don’t belong on an NFL field for every defensive snap is less than ideal.
Luckily, the Bolts get to face something called a Devlin Hodges at quarterback, but presumably he can still throw the football and there is a good chance he will be throwing to JuJu Smith-Schuster or Diontae Johnson who will be wide open downfield at least a couple times on Sunday.