By Dave Thomas

With their bye behind them, the Los Angeles Chargers have their focus on the Jacksonville Jaguars and Sunday’s AFC meeting in the Sunshine State.

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After dropping their final game before the bye week (a 21-13 loss at New England), the Chargers have spent the last week trying to mend some aching bodies and preparing for the stretch run of the next eight games.

Sitting at 3-5 and tied with Denver for third place in the AFC West (Kansas City leads the division at 6-3; Oakland is 4-5), the Bolts will look to use the Jacksonville game as a springboard to better things in the second half of the season.

First Half Opportunities Missed

In taking a look back at the first half of the season, the Chargers definitely left some opportunities on the table.

For instance, there were losses at Denver (24-21) and home to Miami (19-17) that very easily could have swung the other way. If the Chargers had won those two games, they’d be sitting at 5-3, along with having one more division win to their credit (Chargers are 2-2 in AFC West play to date).

One thing that hurt the Bolts overall through the first eight games of the season was an inconsistent running game.

While Melvin Gordon has amassed 526 yards rushing and four touchdowns on the ground, Los Angeles comes into this Sunday’s game with the NFL’s 25th overall rushing attack. Conversely, Jacksonville will enter Sunday’s tilt with the top-ranked rushing attack. For the Chargers to improve upon their 3-5 record in the first half of the season, the running game needs to pick things up.

Another problem through part of the first half of the season was the kicking game.

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After rookie Younghoe Koo missed a pair of key field goals in respective losses to open the season (Denver, Miami), the Chargers eventually kicked him to the curb. In doing so, they brought back veteran Nick Novak, who was with the Chargers from 2011-14.

For the season, Novak has hit on three-of-five field goals and is nine-of-nine on PAT’s.

Will Rookie Head Coach Make All The Right Calls?

When you have a rookie coach running the show, it is going to take some time for everyone to get on the same page.

With Anthony Lynn at the helm, the Bolts have, at times, looked unsure of themselves when it comes to play-calling and managing the clock. With the latter, it may have cost them a game or two early in the season.

Over these next eight games, Lynn and Co. will have to make sure that they do not make mistakes that could lead to close losses.

Given that the margin of error is so slim right now with a 3-5 record, the Chargers really can only afford one or two more losses, tops, if they expect to have a realistic shot at an AFC playoff berth. Playing .500 ball the rest of the way simply won’t get it done.

Once the Chargers move on from Jacksonville, the schedule tightens up; Los Angeles will play two games in a span of four days.

Buffalo comes to L.A. on Nov. 19, and the Chargers then headed to Dallas for a Thanksgiving Day meeting with the Cowboys in front of a national audience.

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Although the old cliche of one game at a time is so true, the Chargers need to come out of November unbeaten – or at worse 2-1 – for a legitimate shot to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.