JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Can the San Diego Chargers finish the deal in the game they are supposed to win? We’ll find out in a couple hours.
The Chargers are favored by seven points in Vegas as they face the winless Jacksonville Jaguars here on Sunday. Of Course, San Diego was in a similar situation two weeks ago when they travelled to AFC West rival Oakland and fell behind 17-0, with a fourth-quarter rally coming up short.
Quarterback Philip Rivers said it’s time for his team to get off of the roller coaster, as the Chargers try to win consecutive games for the first time this season and go into the bye week on a high note.
“We’re 3-3 and we’ve got a long way to go,” Rivers said. “And every one is important. But when you’re at the point we are in the season and you’ve got a bye week coming up next week, we’ve got to find a way to get this game won.”
1. Show some consistency: The up-and-down performances need to come to an end for the Chargers. San Diego has a blueprint on how it can score offensively -- an up-tempo, short passing game with a downhill running game used as a change-up to move the chains. And defensive coordinator John Pagano established a way his unit can get it done on that side of the ball -- play stout run defense and use multiple looks and personnel groupings to create the illusion of pressure, masking some of the deficiencies at edge rusher and in the back end defensively. Now, it’s up to both sides of the ball to execute at the required level -- on the same day.
2. Limit explosive plays: The Jaguars have 18 passing plays of 20 or more yards, tied for No. 14 in the league. I think they have an underrated group of pass-catchers, led by Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts, who’s expected to play with a painful shoulder injury. Add the return of tight end Marcedes Lewis, running back Maurice Jones-Drew and new deep threat Stephen Williams, and San Diego’s secondary will be tested. Cornerback Derek Cox needs to play well in his return to Jacksonville.
3. Turnover time: The Jaguars have a minus-6 turnover differential, including 11 interceptions by Jacksonville quarterbacks. So there will be opportunities for a San Diego defense that has forced just three turnovers this season. Forcing turnovers on the road can help take some pressure off of San Diego’s offense.
4. Get Mathews going: Running back Ryan Mathews topped the 100-yard mark for the first time in 2013 last week, as San Diego coach Mike McCoy surprisingly turned to the running game against Indianapolis. The last time he played in Jacksonville, Mathews ran for 112 yards on 13 carries in a 38-14 win. Let’s see if Mathews can run for 100 yards in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
5. Red zone woes: The Chargers have scored touchdowns just 28 percent of the time in the red zone in the past three games, which is fourth worst in the NFL. While it’s nice for Nick Novak to earn his paycheck by drilling field goals, the Chargers need to get into the end zone more in those situations, starting today.