In order to preview the Eagles’ matchup against the Chargers, I reached out to our enemies over at Bolts From The Blue. Our friend Richard Wade (@RichardWade) kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming game. Let's take a look at the answers.
1 - The Chargers are 0-3. What’s gone wrong?
What hasn't gone wrong? The most obvious answer is that the kicking game really let down the rest of the team in the first two weeks. Rookie kicker Younghoe Koo had a game-tying field goal blocked in week 1 and missed two field goals (including a game-winner) in week 2. The more distressing answer is that Philip Rivers has not looked like the greatest quarterback in franchise history to start this season. Instead, he has looked more like the guy who has a troubling recent past that involves leading the NFL in interceptions. He almost single-handedly lost the Chiefs game this past week. He was a complete mess. His footwork was bad and his decision-making was worse. He threw three picks but it easily could have been five or six. If he doesn't get his head right, this team could have a worse record than it has had the past two years.
2 - Despite being winless, the Chargers still “only” have the league’s 23rd worst point differential. Something similar happened last year when the Chargers were 5-11 but “only” had the leagues’ 22nd worst point differential. Are the Chargers better than their record makes them appear? Do you think they’ve just been unlucky or is something else holding them back from winning close games?
The Chargers are not better than their record makes them appear. They have a handful of very talented players like Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and Keenan Allen who will keep them within striking distance against many teams. However, they have an incredible lack of depth in part thanks to the general manager's affinity for trading away middle-round draft picks. They also sport a roster full of players that are injury prone. That combination tends to reveal itself in the kicking game (where the lack of depth kills the quality of special teams players) and late in games when their opponent is able to rotate in better players throughout the game and keep their stars fresh. The team appears unlucky, but really they're just not very good.
3 - I imagine this question comes up often, so I apologize in advance, but I have to ask. How do you feel about the team’s move to Los Angeles? And how do you think the current stadium situation impacts the Chargers’ home field advantage, or lack thereof? Given how well Eagles fans travel, could this potentially be close to a neutral field situation? I heard there were a lot of Dolphins fans there in Week 2.
The move to Los Angeles has been painful at best. A large percentage of fans have given up on the team and many of them are now actively rooting for the franchise's failure. There is no indication that they have developed any new fans and the 0-3 start certainly is not helping with that. There is no home field advantage to speak of at the StubHub Center. I would be surprised if less than 40% of the crowd is supporting the Eagles. Dolphins fans made up somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% or more of the fans at that game and they are not a fanbase that travels like Eagles fans.
4 - What’s one matchup that really favors the Eagles? And one that really favors the Chargers?
Zach Ertz is one of the most talented receiving tight ends in the NFL and the Chargers have one of the worst safety tandems in the league. Any time you can find Tre Boston or Jahleel Addae in coverage against Ertz you will be looking at a potentially big play. And God forbid you get anyone that's eligible to receive a pass lined up against run-stuffing outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel.
Keenan Allen is one of the finest route runners in the NFL and I think he will find a lot of success against a Philly secondary that is not at full strength and was not the greatest to begin with.
5 - Who wins this game and why? What’s your score prediction?
I like the Eagles in this one. The Chargers just are not a very good team right now and the Eagles are playing well. Mobile quarterbacks have always given them trouble and I don't think Wentz will be any different. I think the Eagles win 24-17.