The Chargers (8-6) are set to play in the final game of week 16 when they take the field in Indianapolis to face the Colts (4-9-1). There is a very small chance the Chargers can clinch their playoff spot this week if they would exit Monday with a win, combined with losses by the Patriots and Raiders.
But before that time comes, let’s take a look at three things I’ll be keeping an eye on when these teams do battle on Monday Night Football.
1.) Can the pass rush continue to thrive against new starting quarterback Nick Foles?
In a stunning move — or a not-so-surprising one, depending on which fan base you ask — the Colts have decided to bench quarterback Matt Ryan in order to start former Super Bowl winner, Nick Foles. Foles will mark the team’s third different starting quarterback after former head coach Frank Reich chose to start Sam Ehlinger for a pair of games in weeks eight and nine.
When it’s all said and done, Foles’ play style is not all that different from Ryan’s. They’re both pocket passers who aren’t too fond of showing off their lack of mobility.
Foles has started just one game in the past 32 weeks of the NFL regular season football so while he’s still long in the tooth, the Chargers are about to face a quarterback who has been removed from real, meaningful football for quite some time.
2.) Will Derwin James hit the ground running following his groin injury?
Somehow, some way, the Chargers managed to get past both the Dolphins and Titans without the aid of their All-Pro safety, Derwin James. This week, against a middling Colts offense, the Chargers are expected to get James back so he can start contributing to this recently-revitalized unit.
Over the past two weeks, against one of the top offenses (Dolphins) and one of the worst (Titans), the Chargers have allowed an average of 15.5 points and 165.0 passing yards per game. As bad as this defense had been through the majority of the season up to those games, it’s almost a miracle they managed to do what they did while missing almost half the starters from the original 11 that were healthy in week one.
If the Chargers have been this good without, I can’t wait to see how they look when he’s out there alongside the rest of his teammates.
3.) Will Austin Ekeler eclipse 100 receptions to best LaDainian Tomlinson?
Entering week 16, Ekeler currently has 95 receptions this season and is coming off a season-low two catches against the Titans. With three games in the regular season, it’s essentially a foregone conclusion that he’ll reach the mark over the next three weeks, but it’d be nice if he could go ahead and get it done and over with so his adoring fans — *raises hand — can stop worrying about it.
Despite him already besting his previous career high of 92 receptions from 2019, Ekeler has 358 LESS yards than he did during that season! That’s probably pretty hard to wrap your head around, but it’s true. Ekeler averaged 10.8 yards per reception that year which is insane when you compare it to his average of 6.7, which is certainly on pace to be a new career low by almost a full yard.
Yes, he’ll get to 100 receptions this year, but I’m going to be a bit selfish and hope it comes this week so we can look forward to seeing just how high he can set the franchise record for receptions by a running back.