By Dave Thomas
With their playoff hopes on the line in the last weekend of regular season play, the Los Angeles Chargers hope for two things to happen come Sunday.
First, they have to take care of their own business and beat the hated Oakland Raiders at home. Second, they need the Jacksonville Jaguars to score a win over the Tennessee Titans. So, does it sound easy enough?
Riding Rollercoaster Of A Season
For Los Angeles (8-7), this has been a rollercoaster season to say the least. Following a horrific 0-4 start, the Chargers turned things around with a win on the road over the lowly New York Giants. From there, the Bolts served notice to the rest of the league that they were not exactly left for dead.
Like any other season, there were games the Chargers very well could have won. Losses to Philadelphia, Denver (season opener on the road), Miami, New England, and Jacksonville stand out among the toughest of the setbacks. In both defeats at the hands of Kansas City (AFC West winner), Los Angeles had chances, yet was clearly not the better team in either game.
Raiders Will Not Play Dead
As was evidenced in their 19-10 loss this past Monday evening in Philadelphia, the Raiders will not simply roll over and play dead come Sunday at Los Angeles. In their first meeting in the Bay Area, the Chargers were lucky to escape with a 17-16 victory. Even with Oakland out of the playoff picture by now, the Raiders showed in the setback to the Eagles that they will come and play anyone.
What will make this Sunday’s contest with the Raiders even more challenging is that the Chargers need to avoid doing any scoreboard watching. In an odd quirk in the schedule, the NFL decided to have no Sunday evening game in the week’s final regular season action. As such, some teams still battling for playoff spots and seeds will be playing at the same time as one another. In the case of Los Angeles, the Chargers game with the Raiders kicks off the same time as the Jacksonville at Tennessee contest.
Chargers Look To Have Some Health Questions Going Into Final Game
As they prepare to tackle the Raiders this Sunday, the Chargers do have a few question marks health-wise. Of most notice, veteran tight end Antonio Gates (270 yards receiving, 3 TD’s) was battling an illness and did not practice on Thursday. That said, don’t be surprised to see Gates in the lineup come Sunday. With second-year tight end Hunter Henry on injured reserve (kidney injury), the Chargers need the experienced Gates more than ever in such a big game.
Starting running back Melvin Gordon (1,012 yards rushing, 8 TD’s) is dealing with an ankle injury, though he did see limited practice this week. Backup running back Austin Ekeler, who has been dealing with a hand injury the last few weeks, should be good to go come Sunday.
For the Chargers and many of their fans, it may have been inconceivable after an 0-4 start to think this team could still make the playoffs in the final weekend of the regular season. As it stands, there is much to play for when the game kicks off Sunday between two old AFL rivals.
Los Angeles reported the following injury update as of Friday:
- (TE) Jeff Cumberland (Illness) – Full Practice
- (ILB) Nick Dzunbar (Illness) – Full Practice
- (RB) Austin Ekeler (Hand) – Full Practice
- (S) Rayshawn Jenkins (Shoulder) – Full Practice
- (C) Spencer Pulley (Knee) – Full Practice
- (TE) Antonio Gates (Illness) – Did Not Practice
- (RB) Melvin Gordon (Ankle) – Limited Practice
- (DT) Corey Liuget (Knee) – Limited Practice
- (T) Russell Okung (Groin) – Limited Practice
- (ILB) Denzel Perryman (Hamstring) – Did Not Practice
- (S) Adrian Phillips (Ankle) – Did Not Practice