The Chargers will need a win at Lambeau on Sunday to keep pace in the AFC playoff picture. Last week’s loss against Detroit took the winds out of their sails, but for the most part the season is still alive. LA sits just one game back of Houston for the final seventh seed playoff spot.
Let’s get into what the Chargers need to do on Sunday in order to fly back home with a win.
Force the Packers into shotgun looks
The Packers have been getting pretty comfortable when they run their offense under center. Green Bay does rank in the top half of the league in EPA/play running under center and empty looks. When Jordan Love snaps the ball in shotgun however, Green Bay ranks 24th in the NFL in EPA/play per Arjun Menon’s The Scout.
Play action has been a massive killer for the Chargers when teams have had a decent run game against them. Several of Detroit’s chunk passing plays came as a result of that. Some of it will start with stopping the Packers’ run game, but as a whole, the defense has to give the Packers fewer options in the passing game. The more 3rd and longs they can be forced into, the better. If Matt LaFleur starts getting into his bag with RPO concepts early in the game though, it could be a long day for LA’s defense again.
The pass rush needs to bounce back
Jared Goff got the ball out quickly and the Chargers’ defensive line was mauled in the trenches last week. There’s not really another way to put it. Six pressures is just not the type of production they expect on a week to week basis. Considering the state of the secondary, they also need more pass rushing production over expectation from Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack, and Tuli Tuipulotu.
Getting handled by Penei Sewell, Taylor Decker, and Frank Ragnow is one thing. But if the Chargers aren’t able to find their pass rush again vs. a generally average to below average Packers’ offensive line, it would spell trouble in this one.
Finding the easy stuff on offense
The Chargers aren’t coming into this game at their healthiest. Keenan Allen is likely to play with an AC joint sprain while Jalen Guyton is injured with a groin injury he picked up in practice this week. Tight end Gerald Everett has already been declared OUT.
LA isn’t likely to put up a ton of points or yards on offense. They win this game by finding their proper safety valves and not turning the ball over. That could mean a lot of Austin Ekeler in the passing game with yards-after-catch potential. Maybe they can get Quentin Johnston going on a few slant concepts here or there.
Whatever it is, the Chargers have to create some easy looks for themselves to be able to move the ball downfield considering the suboptimal health situation. As great as Allen’s heroics have been, they shouldn’t bet on a legacy game from him in his current condition. They have to scheme the other guys open.
Don’t force the run game
On paper, most would look at this as a matchup for the Chargers where they should try to establish the run. Green Bay’s run defense is one of the worst in the league at 27th in rush yards per game allowed.
But the Chargers have struggled mightily in getting the run game going. In their last three games, the Chargers are averaging 78.7 yards per game on 24.7 carries per contest. The running backs themselves haven’t been efficient and truth be told, the run blocking is a work in progress.
Kellen Moore will probably get his fair share of positive run fits that he can hope to exploit, but whether or not he’ll keep pounding the rock will probably depend on the teams’ success rates. Considering how Justin Herbert has been playing, I wouldn’t try to fix what isn’t working though. I’d much rather trust #10 through the air even given some of the receiver injuries than a run game trying to scratch and claw to get over three yards per carry.
This probably needs to be the Quentin Johnston game
The Chargers activated wide receivers Alex Erickson and Terrell Bynum ahead of Sunday’s game. While Allen said earlier this week that he is planning on playing, him and Guyton are still officially questionable.
Johnston is the only receiver who’s going to be 100% and playing a primary 11 personnel role. He’s had his flashes over the last number of games, but this might have to be one where he puts it all together. Whether Jaire Alexander plays for the Packers in this game could be a huge part of that.
Whether it’s screens, slants, deep posts, or any other type of route, Johnston needs to be at his most efficient considering the circumstances around the Chargers’ offense and their lack of depth.
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Author: Alex Insdorf