By Dave Thomas
If you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Chargers, you only need to go back to last season when the team was in San Diego. The Chargers headed to Northeast Ohio for a date with the then winless Cleveland Browns. When all was said and done, the Browns got their first and only win of the 2016 campaign.
Flash-forward to this season and it’s almost a carbon copy all over again.
While the Chargers (now in Los Angeles) are mounting a push for the AFC West Division, the Browns continue to be as hapless as ever. Sitting with an 0-11 record, the AFC North cellar dwellers head to the greater Los Angeles area this Sunday to take on a Chargers team that has been firing on all cylinders over the last week of play.
With decisive wins over Buffalo (54-24) and Dallas (28-6), the Chargers have proven to be one of the hotter teams winding down the month of November.
Now, can they keep that momentum going against a Cleveland squad that appears headed yet again for the top pick in the NFL Draft?
Don’t Take Cleveland Lightly
Despite being the only team in the NFL without a win this season, Cleveland has had its chances.
In looking at the Browns’ season to date, Cleveland (outscored 289-166) dropped close games to Indianapolis (31-28), the New York Jets (17-14), and Tennessee (12-9). So, although the Chargers (14-point favorites) should win this game, expect the unexpected.
Heading into the contest, the Chargers have a rather limited injury report.
Of most notice, rookie wide receiver Mike Williams is out with a knee injury, while placekicker Nick Novak is questionable (back).
As Charger fans who watched last Thanksgiving Day’s win in Dallas know, Novak’s absence on several kicks turned into a fiasco for punter Drew Kaser, who missed a couple of extra points. The Chargers will hope that a few more days of rest will help their veteran kicker get back into the swing of things come Sunday.
Chargers Have Everything Lining Up In Their Favor
Finally, after beginning the first portion of the season at 0-4, some had left the Chargers for dead. While the Chargers are far from a Super Bowl champion caliber team right now, things are starting to fall into place.
Los Angeles has had the defensive look of a winner for a good chunk of the season. Despite some games where they gave up a busload of points, the Chargers were in all the games they dropped.
One difference between now and earlier in the season is that Los Angeles is playing with more confidence. While the defense had been clicking for a good portion of the season, the offense would sputter at times. As a result, the team missed out on some wins that were there for the taking.
As the calendar turns to December, the Chargers have everything lined up in front of them.
Following home dates with Cleveland and Washington, Los Angeles has a big test Saturday, Dec. 16 in Kansas City against the now first place Chiefs. If the Chargers can win that game, do they suddenly become the favorite to win the division with two regular season games to go?
Even though this team and its fans should not get ahead of themselves, the Chargers have a good shot at winning their first division title in nearly a decade.
Los Angeles reported the following injury update as of Friday:
- (C) Spencer Pulley (Knee) – Full Practice
- (WR) Mike Williams (Knee) – Did Not Practice
- (CB) Casey Hayward (Calf/Personal) – Did Not Practice
- (DT) Corey Liuget (Toe) – Limited Practice
- (K) Nick Novak (back) – Limited Practice