Halfway Through The Season Chargers Retain Hope
November 9, 2017
The Los Angeles Chargers have reached the halfway point of their schedule for the 2017 season. Their first half record of 3-5 is disappointing but a three-game winning streak did give Charger fans hope until the mistake-filled loss to the New England Patriots on the road.
This past weekend was a bye weekend and gave the coaching staff an opportunity to do some much-needed self-scouting. As Charger head coach Anthony Lynn stated: "We're reflecting back on some self-scouting. Guys are doing projects like crazy right now just trying to figure out different ways that we can get better. When the (players) get back, how do we want to move forward and go on from here?"
On offense the Chargers have been okay. Their currently rank 17th in the NFL in total offensive yardage per game. The biggest area of concern for the Chargers' offensively is on third down conversions. The Chargers are currently ranked 24th in the NFL with a conversion percentage of 36% on third downs.
As a comparison, the Los Angeles Rams lead the NFL in this category at a 49% conversion percentage. The good offensive teams in the NFL convert on third down and this is one area where the Chargers must get better. Good offensive teams convert on third down and score points.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers after the game last week at New England: "The one thing though that we have not found the recipe for yet is that we need to score more points. The thing that hurts the most for me is that I keep seeing other teams score into the teens and us not win and I hate that for our defense – I hate that. For one, we as an offense are used to scoring a lot of points all the time and we just haven't been able to score as many points."
The Chargers are 31st in time-of-possession through the first half of the season. This is reflected in the third down conversion rate. The Chargers play a bend but don't break defense that also has not helped in the disparity in time-of-possession. The Charger offense needs more plays and more opportunities to score points.
On defense the Charger pass defense has been the best part of the team through the first half of the defense. The Chargers are tied for fourth in sacks in the NFL. The combination of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram has been lethal this season to quarterbacks in the NFL. The secondary has been solid led by Pro Bowl cornerback Craig Hayward.
The Chargers have struggled against the run this season and are ranked 31st in the NFL in this category, but they have shown improvement in this area over the past four weeks. They are also getting back Linebacker Denzel Perryman, who is coming off the injured reserve list and should help significantly with the Charger run defense.
Special teams have been the one area where the Chargers have just not been able to find any consistency. Outside of a great game against the Broncos at home the Chargers have performed poorly on special teams. There have been three games in the first half of the season that were lost due to mistakes made by the special teams. All aspects of Charger special teams need to improve.
The next two weeks are must win games for the Chargers. Both Jacksonville and Buffalo are currently 5-3 and if the season ended today both would be in the playoffs through the wild card slot. The Chargers need to narrow the gap between them and both the Bills and the Jaguars. Victories over these two teams would give the Chargers the tie breaking advantage in case these teams end up with the same record. Beating conference opponents is also important in playoff tie-breaking scenarios.
The goal at this point is for the Chargers to find a way to get to nine wins. That might not get the Chargers into the playoffs, but at least it would give the Chargers a winning record. Considering the fact that the Chargers started 0-4, a 9-7 finish would mean the Chargers going 9-3 over the last 12 games, a nice finish for the team that is "Fighting for LA" and building for the future.
The Chargers will be at Jacksonville to play the Jaguars next Sunday in a game that starts at 10 a.m. on the West Coast. The Jaguars have a talented young team. This will be a tough matchup for the Chargers. The Chargers' leaky run defense will be going up against the #1 ranked rushing offense in the NFL. The Jaguars are averaging 166 yards per game on the ground.
The Jaguars also have the #1 pass defense in the NFL. They lead the NFL in sacks at 35, lead the NFL in defensive passer rating at 63.5 and have allowed the least amount of passing touchdowns at four.
Quarterback Philip Rivers will need to get rid of the ball quickly against this defense. He will need to utilize his running backs and tight ends in the passing game.
The Jaguars will give up yardage on the ground and that will be the path to victory for the Chargers. The Rams beat the Jaguars in Jacksonville by running the ball and scoring two touchdowns on special teams. The Chargers will also need a good performance from their special teams this Sunday.
The Chargers lost some games early in the season that they should have won. This Sunday they need to find a way to win a game on the road that they will not be expected to win.