Bolt Beat Week 7 staff picks: Chargers vs. Falcons

Dec 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; A Atlanta Falcons helmet rest on the field prior to the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 21, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; A Atlanta Falcons helmet rest on the field prior to the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

The San Diego Chargers may have revived their season with a Thursday night victory over the Denver Broncos. But the games aren’t getting any easier, and a road trip to Atlanta is among the toughest games the team will face all season.

So how can the Chargers win this game? Though they’ve only played nine games against the Falcons in their history, the Chargers have beaten them just one time…. in 1988.

The Chargers have done an admirable job of competing despite a myriad of injuries that threatened to derail the season. Still, both the Broncos and Oakland Raiders are two games ahead of them in the AFC West. The Chargers can’t afford to drop games, and this is one that will be tough to get.

Still, San Diego has a chance if they can control time of possession and shorten the game. Keeping the ball away from Matt Ryan and his high-powered offense would be a solid start, but when they do have the ball, the Chargers need to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback. Only five teams have allowed more sacks than the Falcons through six games this season.

The staff at Bolt Beat has chimed in with their thoughts and some of them don’t feel that a road trip to Atlanta is that daunting. Here’s what each of them had to say. The win-loss record for the season for each writer is in parenthesis.

Conor Denton (3-2): “Once again no one knows how good or bad this team is. Such is life with a sub-par coaching staff. I’ll start off by saying I’m currently as confident as Mike McCoy was in the fourth quarter last Thursday that San Diego will win in Atlanta. Julio Jones just decimated the Seahawks secondary with Richard Sherman shadowing him all day. Casey Hayward is not Richard Sherman. Plus, we don’t have an Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor. Expect another shootout and a close game initially. However, I think San Diego will eventually start trading field goals for touchdowns and Atlanta will slowly pull away. That or another incomprehensible collapse never yet seen before in football. Who honestly knows anymore. Garbage time keeps it close but the score won’t indicate the lopsided affair. Atlanta 38 San Diego 34.”

Bill Burgin (2-1): “This game will be an offensive shootout, but I think the Chargers defense makes plays that will shift momentum in the Chargers favor. Bosa and Ingram will put constant pressure on Matt Ryan slowing down the offense. The Chargers win 27-24, keeping their season alive.”

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Kevin Valenzuela (1-0): “With the Chargers facing the number 1 offense in the league, it will definitely be a daunting but good matchup for the Bolts, as we’ll get to see our hot defense try and contain Julio Jones. Even though the odds are on the Falcons side, it should be a good game as the Chargers have stepped it up on defense and Philip continues to be Philip. If the Chargers can establish a running game and get Melvin Gordon going, then they win. If they can’t, then it’s hard for me to see the bolts getting the win. The way we beat them is by ball control and keeping their offense off the field as much as possible.”

Louis Gorini (5-1): “After some extended time off from their Thursday night game, the Chargers fly across country to take on the Falcons, an opponent they have limited experience against. This is one of those games where the time off will actually hurt the Chargers. I see them starting off slow and trying to play catch up all game. Atlanta’s offensive line will do a good job at neutralizing San Diego’s pass rush, and as a result, Julio Jones will have a big day. I also think that the speed on the defensive side of the ball for the Falcons will give the Chargers offense problems. Chargers 21 Falcons 31”

Sean Begler (3-3): “The Falcons offense is dynamic with the ability to hit an opposing defense in many different ways. The Chargers will have their work cut out for them guarding the likes of Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. No longer can San Diego rely on the ability of its corners, instead they will have to rely on pressuring Matt Ryan with a solid pass rush.  Unfortunately for the Chargers, the Falcons have too many weapons. San Diego will struggle covering the pass while accounting for the running backs. Even though there are great rookies in place, the Chargers don’t have enough counter measures in place to stop the Falcons. If San Diego can pull off another upset in Atlanta against the current best ranking offense a run seems entirely possible. I just don’t see it happening. Falcons win in Atlanta 24-17.”

Matt Pagels (4-2): “What are we going to do with these Chargers? They are a good football team and came out with a big win against the Denver Broncos in primetime, but they almost lost because of bad fourth quarter play again. Everyone expects this to be a shootout; but watch, it’ll be a defensive showdown. Many people don’t think the Chargers can get the win, especially since they are traveling to the East Coast, but I’m going with the Bolts in this one.”

Travis Wakeman (3-3): “Still seething after a loss to Seattle in which a blatant pass interference penalty wasn’t called, I would expect to see Atlanta ready to make a statement here at home. But they better not overlook San Diego. The Chargers have some young players that can make a difference on the defensive side of the ball in this game, such as Joey Bosa and Jatavis Brown. The Chargers have been able to be competitive despite all the injuries they’ve been faced with this season, but I think this is the game that catches up with them. They need Jason Verrett to match up with Julio Jones. They need Danny Woodhead to catch passes out of the backfield and they need Keenan Allen to make the Falcons cover the entire field. Without them (and several others), I think the Chargers are outmatched in this one.  Falcons 31, Chargers 20.”

Who do you think will win and why? Want to tell us how bad some of our picks are, do so in the comments section. Also, remember to check back with Bolt Beat tomorrow as we’ll have our open thread up in time for kickoff so we can all discuss the game together.