By Dave Thomas
Fresh-off a resounding 54-24 thumping of the Buffalo Bills last Sunday in Southern California, the Los Angeles Chargers take their talents to “Big D” on Thanksgiving Day for a meeting with the Dallas Cowboys.
Los Angeles (4-6), which is still in the AFC playoff hunt and even the race for the AFC West Division crown, can’t afford to stumble now if it wants to keep those hopes of making the postseason for the first time in four years going.
Dallas (5-5) looks to hold on to what are slim hopes at this point of catching the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East race. Philadelphia rolled to a 37-9 win in Dallas this past Sunday night.
So, which Los Angeles and Dallas teams will show up Thursday when millions of Americans are digesting their first or second plates of turkey?
Chargers Need To Build On Buffalo Rout
For Los Angeles to keep the playoff push going, it will need another all-around effort on offense and defense like it received this past Sunday.
In handily beating the Bills, the Chargers were able to pretty much move the ball at will, all the while making Buffalo rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman’s debut nothing short of a disaster. The University of Pitt product ended his day with five interceptions.
While second-year Dallas QB Dak Prescott is still learning on the job to some degree, he’s much more polished than Peterman. As a result, defensive ends Joey Bosa (10.5 sacks on the season) and Melvin Ingram (8.5 sacks), along with the other guys on defense on any given play, will have to pressure Prescott as much as possible. Jahleel Addae and Jatavis Brown lead the Bolts with 68 and 63 total tackles, respectively.
Dallas’ offensive line, once one of the great strengths of this team, has not looked sharp in recent games. The injury to starting tackle Tyron Smith has really hurt the Cowboys. Add in the fact that starting running back Ezekiel Elliott will continue serving his suspension over domestic violence allegations, and the Chargers should be able to have some regular success on defense.
As for the Chargers offense, the 54 points scored this past Sunday were by far the team’s most this season.
With wide receiver Keenan Allen catching 12 passes (two for touchdowns) and Buffalo unable to get sustained pressure on quarterback Philip Rivers (17 TD’s, 7 interceptions on the season), Los Angeles had little trouble rolling up the points when the defense was not causing havoc for Peterman and the Bills.
What’s Left In Regular Season?
Once the Thanksgiving Day game is behind them, the Chargers can then focus on the leftovers of the regular season. Those begin on Dec. 3 with a visit from the 0-10 Cleveland Browns.
Before Chargers fans begin salivating over playing what is now the only remaining winless team in the NFL, remember that it was Cleveland getting its only win in a horrific 1-15 season in 2016 over then San Diego.
After the Browns pay a visit, Los Angeles will host Washington (Dec. 10) before embarking on a two-game road trip to face Kansas City and the New York Jets, respectively.
If the Chargers are still in the AFC playoff hunt come New Year’s Day, things could be quite interesting. On the last day of the regular season, Los Angeles will host the hated AFC West rival Oakland Raiders. But before Chargers fans start thinking about the Raiders or even the Browns for that matter, winning in the Lone Star State and enjoying their turkey should be at the top of the list.