Here we go. One more time for the 2023 season.
The Chargers will host the Chiefs on Sunday in the regular season finale at SoFi Stadium. Both teams are starting their backup quarterbacks in a game that means nothing to playoff seeding or anything of note aside from the Chargers’ positioning in this year’s NFL draft.
With the Chiefs sitting a number of starters, the Chargers could very well win one more game and push themselves further down in the top 10. If they lose, they would select somewhere between #5 and #7 with most analysts assuming they’ll get the sixth-overall pick.
We all know what we and the rest of the fan base want, but don’t expect the Chargers to actually lay down and refuse to fight. They want to play to win. We don’t blame them.
Below are the three biggest storylines i’ll be following when these teams take the field on Sunday.
1.) Easton Stick’s last audition for the next coaching staff
In the three full games in which Easton Stick has started for the Chargers following Justin Herbert’s season-ending injury, he’s averaged 230.6 passing yards and 23 rushing yards per game. He has thrown three touchdowns, one interception, and rushed for another in that span. However, all three passing scores and the pick came in his first start three weeks ago against the Raiders in Brandon Staley’s final game at the helm. In his past two starts against the Bills and Broncos, Stick has thrown zero touchdowns to one rushing score. He’s played clean football for the most part. When he’s had Joshua Palmer to throw to, the offense showed life against Buffalo. When both Palmer and Allen were out this past Sunday, the offense failed to find the end zone.
Overall, I’d say Stick hasn’t been “awful” given his circumstances but results speak volumes in this league regardless of context. If the Chargers feel like they can find another veteran with ideal experience to backup Herbert next season, I believe they may have to do just that. But before those decisions officially get made, he’s got one more chance to prove something on the field.
50) Joshua Palmer and Keenan Allen are dealing with injuries.— Moody (@EricNMoody) December 29, 2023
Don’t overlook Quentin Johnston.
So far this season, Easton Stick and Johnston have connected for 131 receiving yards and a touchdown.pic.twitter.com/4QKJYli1s4
2.) How much run will Austin Ekeler receive in what could be his last game in powder blue?
This season has gone nowhere near the way Ekeler would have liked it to. After taking a stand this offseason with other top running backs in an effort to strengthen their market and get what they deserve, it didn’t necessarily backfire as much as it just fizzled. Ekeler got a few potential bumps in his 2023 contract if he were to reach certain production thresholds but it’s been tough sledding. He’s missed a few games and with one game to go, he has just over 1,000 total yards and six touchdowns. If he can get to 1,125 total yards, the first incentive kicks in. If he scores four touchdowns, he gets another. Safe to say just one is in play this weekend.
Ekeler has been one of the best stories in the NFL ever since he started earning a major role in the Chargers offense back in 2018. With back-to-back years where he’s led the NFL in touchdowns, on top of reaching the same heights set by other greats who formerly went undrafted in the NFL, it’ll be sad to see Ekeler go should this be his final season in Los Angeles.
If you rode with Austin Ekeler this week let’s hear it!! pic.twitter.com/qLelV0HH0m— NFL Fantasy Football (@NFLFantasy) December 11, 2023
3.) I just hope everyone has fun
Yeah, it’s cliche as hell, but what else is there to really look for at this point in the season with little to nothing on the line? The Chargers have endured a heck of a season in the worst way. They’ve battled public scrutiny the entire year, they lost their starting quarterback with almost a third of the season left to go, and they had to watch both Brandon Staley and Tom Telesco get ousted midseason. As much as the fan base wanted that final event to happen, the players just watch the two men who allowed them to chase their NFL dream get shown the door. That likely had some sort of an effect on them, whether it be survivor’s guilt or another understandable emotional response.
It’s the final game of the year. No playoffs or awards to chase. These players deserve to have some fun before the long offseason kicks in. It’s one last ride with this current group. I just hope they go out and make the best of it.