3. Special Teams vs. Special Teams
Oh boy. Both teams come into this game with several special teams mishaps so far this season.
Caleb Sturgis has been unreliable to the point where the Chargers signed Kicker Michael Badgley and are now running two kickers. Before the Chargers put Desmond King at punt returner, it was a complete mess. Their struggles are well known to anyone who watches the Chargers or reads any articles here.
But the Browns may somehow be just as bad. With field goals blocked, missed extra points, punts blocked and penalty flags flying, the Browns’ unit has struggled.
They’ve switched from Zane Gonzalez to Greg Joseph, who nearly missed a game winner in overtime last week that just got over the crossbar. Neither of these units have had particularly good performances in any of their five games, and whoever shows up with better special teams may end up winning the game.
4. Gordon and Ekeler vs. The Browns’ D
Even as a Chargers fan, in my wildest predictions, I did not think we’d be talking about Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler as the NFL’s best running back duo almost halfway through the season.
Now, that’s partially due to Mark Ingram’s suspension, but they’ve been great. Ekeler has been super efficient with has runs and has been great in the passing game. Gordon has improved his running and has become a big receiving threat and a safety valve for Rivers.
If the Browns can limit the Chargers’ running backs, they’ll have a chance. They’ve been great in some performances this season, but have given up two particularly big games to James Conner in Week 1 vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers and Lynch in Week 4 vs. the Raiders.
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5. Chargers’ secondary vs. Cleveland receivers
The Browns have spread the ball around pretty well since Mayfield came into the game against the New York Jets in Week 3. David Njoku was in the game vs. the Chargers last year, but everyone else is kind of new to the Bolts.
Jarvis Landry has been good this season following his trade from Miami. Antonio Callaway has made a huge impression as a rookie, and Rashard Higgins has been a decent weapon for them as well.
The Chargers’ secondary has been a mixed bag. They’ve played good coverage and at times some pretty bad coverage. I still see some missed tackles out there. Jahleel Addae in particular needs to step up in my opinion.