It’s been a long, long eight and a half months since the last time the Bolts took the field but we finally made it. Chargers football is back in a little over 24 hours!
Their first matchup of the season isn’t a divisional matchup, but it’s not lacking any intrigue. They’re opening up against the Bengals and 2020 first-overall pick Joe Burrow who is now tasked with orchestrating an underrated Bengals offense that gets back a revitalized AJ Green for the first time since 2018.
The Chargers, while without star safety Derwin James, should have one of the best defenses in the NFL. 2019 second-round safety Nasir Adderley is starting for the first time after losing his rookie year to a hamstring injury and veteran nose tackle Linval Joseph brings a monolithic presence between Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
The Bengals will be without star defensive tackle Geno Atkins and the Chargers will be without captain and starting center Mike Pouncey, so both sides of the ball will be at a loss today.
It’s going to be a phenomenal game, no matter which way you turn it. With that being said, here are a few game predictions by myself and a fellow NFL writer who you will likely see contribute to the site throughout this season.
SB Nation NFL Writer Cam Mellor: If there’s one thing that we know at this point in September, it’s that defenses are going to be well ahead of offenses in Week 1 of the 2020 coronavirus-affected season. And fortunately for the Chargers, their veteran quarterback is leading them against a defense who replaces two starters in the secondary that allowed 24 passing touchdowns and 17 rushing touchdowns a year ago, compared to a rookie quarterback who faces a defense that allowed just 21 passing TDs and 15 rushing scores. That being said, Joe Burrow is the real deal and is fresh off the greatest college quarterback season of all time. But, so was Jameis Winston at the time (fine his Heisman-winning season was the greatest season of all-time prior to Burrow), who threw four interceptions in his professional debut. Burrow is no Winston, but like Winston’s debut, Burrow’s offensive line is one of the league’s worst while the NFL’s best pass-rusher resides in Southern California. Look for Bosa to rip apart either Bobby Hart on the right, or essentially a rookie in Jonah Williams (who sat out all of 2019 with injury) at left tackle and make Burrow run for his life.
Game Prediction: The NFL life comes atcha fast. Joey B, Chargers win a slugfest, 24-21.
Michael Peterson: There’s a lot of uncertainty in this matchup. There are plenty of players who are either new or coming off seasons where they spent the entirety of the schedule on the sideline with injuries, for both teams. Adderley, Joseph, 2020 first-rounder Kenneth Murray Jr., and Chris Harris Jr. highlight the newbies for the Bolts while the Bengals will trot out Burrow, Green, and 2019 first-round pick left tackle Jonah Williams.
I think both teams will struggle out of the gate and I can see this being a 0-0 game heading into the second quarter, but then I think they’ll both find their strides through the second half. I expect Taylor to make a handful of plays with his legs and won’t be surprised to see Burrow make a play or two that’s reminiscent of his time with LSU last year.
In the end, I think the Chargers’ defense is the deciding factor as they get an interception of Burrow in the fourth quarter which effectively ices the game. Taylor begins his time as the starter with zero turnovers in an efficient game one performance.
Game Prediction: This one feels like it will be close all the way through but the Bolts simply get one more pivotal stop than the Bengals. Chargers edge Bengals 20-16.