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MNF Staff Picks: Chargers take on the Jets in pivotal Week 9 matchup

The Chargers host the Jets at SoFi stadium in what is an important eighth game of the season for two AFC playoff hopefuls.

New York Jets v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

The Chargers enter into Week 9 with their season on the line as the leaders of the AFC wildcard race (basically the entire AFC North) are stretching away and all of the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Las Vegas Raiders, all earned a win to move above the Bolts in the standings. This game will be absolutely pivotal and Brandon Staley’s men simply cannot afford to miss this opportunity to get back to .500 for the first time since Week 4. Joshua Palmer is the latest significant injury on the season and whilst it is a shame to see him land on injured reserve, the timing of Jalen Guyton’s return couldn’t be better to make up for his absence. The Chargers’ offense has got to improve dramatically to take on a Jets’ defense that has yet to allow more than two touchdowns in a game this season. Kellen Moore will have to find success on the ground tonight and that is a tall order considering they have the worst rushing success rate in the league since Week 2.

The New York Jets are rolling into SoFi Stadium tonight with the hopes of staying in second place in the AFC East after the Buffalo Bills slid to third due to a jarring loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday night. Robert Salah’s men are looking to take a firm step towards the playoff hopes by not only going two wins above .500 but also getting an important head to head advantage against a Chargers team also targeting a wildcard playoff spot. Their season could have easily been derailed by Aaron Rodgers’ brutal achilles tear on the first drive of the season and the Gang Green deserve credit for staying the course and plugging to a winning record despite Zach Wilson continuing to prove that he is not up to the standards this team needs to win a Superbowl.

DraftKings Sportsbook have the Chargers’ as 3-point favorites, this spread has actually fluctuated back and forth since the final injury report’s were released on Friday so the spread on offer could shift even more so before kick off. In terms of what I am looking to bet for this game, I am very keen on taking the under here with Draftkings offering -110 on a 41 point total. Duane Brown is missing out yet another game despite hopes he could return from his shoulder and hip injuries in time for this game. The Jets’ offensive line has been hampered by injuries and as a result the Jets’ offensive scoring has been very low, they have only scored more than 22 points once this season. On the other side of the ball though their defense has only allowed more than 23 points once, this is mostly due to their talented secondary that has held teams to under 185 yards per game. The Chargers’ defensive outlook is positive for this game as well though, the Bolts’ weakness has been when facing pass happy teams and the Jets are very firmly in the opposite camp. The Jets are the bottom team in total passing yards and rely heavily on their rushing game which itself isn’t something that will catch your eye at 109 yards per game. The Chargers’ have been quietly stout against the run, sitting in the top ten in yards allowed per game (93.4) for the first time in many many years. I would also take the +3.0 point spread on offer for the Jets. In a low scoring game, a field goal buffer is decent value if you don’t quite feel up to the moneyline and at -105 I’d take that as a gift from the oddsmakers.

Here is how the BFTB staff sees this game breaking down:

Ryan Watkins: My foolhardy tactic of consistently backing my Bolts to win every week, despite everything in me reminding me that this team consistently breaks my heart, has come to an end this week. As part of my analytical study of Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner I have watched hundreds of snaps of this Jets’ defense so I know just how good Salah’s men are at all three levels. Their quarters heavy coverage scheme is not all disimilar to Staley’s but the difference is that they have the inarguable best trio of cornerbacks to run it. Sauce takes the headlines and rightly so but D.J. Reed and Michael Carter III deserve more respect, especially Carter, their nickel corner, who has consistently locked down the inside spaces. This is where I think the Bolts lose the game, if Keenan Allen takes up his usual spot in the slot (where he has for 61.6% of his snaps) he will face a tough time getting open quickly to act as an outlet for Justin Herbert. This game entirely hinges on the run game in my opinion, the Jets have allowed 144.9 yards per game on the ground which remarkably, is only 39.5 yards less than they allow through the air. As I wrote in the main body of this article; Kellen Moore’s ground attack as been the worst in the league since Week 2 and this has shown itself in an ugly way in their miserable second half performance, this is not something you typically see fixed over night and I do not foresee this being the game it gets back to what we saw in Week 1.

In my eyes the only chance for redemption comes on the other side of the ball where an aggressive pass rush could see great results against a depleted Jets’ offensive line considering an often panic-ridden Zach Wilson has the tendancy to climb the pocket into pressure so interior loops from Staley’s NASCAR pass rush package could prove lucrative all night long. The Jet’s run game might be middle of the road but Breece Hall is explosive and I think he can punish the Chargers just enough to squeak a narrow win in what is bound to be a defensive game.

Final Score: Jets win 17-16

Kyle DeDiminicantanio: If I had to make one sizzling hot take leading up to this game, it'd bet that Derius Davis ends up with more yards from scrimmage that Quentin Johnston during Joshua Palmer's injury. I still question Johnston's ability to carve out a reliable role in this offense, or for the coaching staff to relent that there's a limitation to what you can ask him to do. With Davis, they've already gotten creative with some backfield looks for the gadget receiver, giving him some rushing opportunities as well as some screens. This take' validity could start tonight, as the Gang Green tries to clamp Keenan Allen with double-coverage and Johnston gets pigeon-holed into routes and concepts designed for Mike Williams, which he's just not suited for.

The Chargers defense came out to play against the Bears... but did they elevate their play above expectations, or did they merely beat down an inferior opponent? Tonight's game is rather similar, featuring a very capable run game, an exceptional receiver talent, but less-than-stellar offensive line play. Can the Jets' offense manage to outscore the Bear's 13 point effort (which came off two touchdowns), and if so, can Justin Herbert rise above their offensive injuries to sneak away with a win?

This is a statement win for one team's defense... and although I'm still not confident in the direction of the Chargers' season, I can't imagine them playing the Jets worse than the Giants did last week.

Final Score: 24-14

Arif Hasan: An analytical breakdown tells us that the Jets are slightly better on defense than the Chargers are on offense, despite extremely similar surface-level metrics in points per game and EPA per play or opponent-adjusted measures like FTN’s DVOA. When breaking down how the Chargers and Jets win on that side of the ball, one can tell that the Chargers are fairly dependent on explosive passing plays while the Jets are fairly good at stopping them.

While this would be a case of strength versus strength, the fact that the Chargers have achieved most of those as after-catch plays instead of as deep passing plays tells us it’s a bit more volatile. Not only that, they’ve gotten a bit lucky – Herbert ranks 27th in deep passing accuracy and 10th in big-time throw rate, per PFF.. And those statistics include a healthy Mike Williams and Joshua Palmer.

On top of that, the Jets are an above-average pressure unit – ranking first in SportRadar’s pressure rate – and they force quick, short throws often, despite having the second-lowest blitz rate in the NFL. They keep players in coverage and prevent big gains. The Chargers have dealt with all of that, but it is a disadvantage given the injury situation.

The other side of the ball is where I’m more confident. The Chargers have a median pressure production unit and have given opponents time to throw, but that doesn’t really matter with Zach Wilson under center. The Jets rank 29th in adjusted net yards per attempt and 28th in opponent-adjusted points per game.

They rank 25th in big-play percentage in the air and 29th in big-time throw rate. The passing game in total ranks 31st in EPA. It’s not good. The Chargers defense has not been phenomenal – they rank 30th in EPA per play in the air and 28th in overall DVOA but they have primarily struggled against good quarterbacks.

Against poor passers, they have kept things tight and though they have a weakness over the middle, the difference in the level of play they’ve seen versus what the Jets can offer is pretty big.

The biggest concern is Breece Hall and his ability to rip off big plays. But he is a feast-or-famine back and has actually been a liability from down to down. The Chargers will probably see one or two big runs and give up a respectable yards per carry. But the impact might be minimal overall.

This game is closer analytically than it should be, but offenses tend to be more reliable and useful for prediction and quarterbacks rule the roost in the NFL. I’ll take the Chargers.

Final Score: Chargers win 24-18

What do you think, BFTB? Any of you placing bets tonight?