Los Angeles, CA (CBSLA)- The Chargers stopped the bleeding last week. Thanks to a missed field goal by Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro, they held on to beat the Chicago Bears, 17-16, and end a three-game losing skid.
Despite the victory, the Chargers decided to fire offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The offense has struggled this season, failing to score more than 20 points or rush for more than 40 yards in four straight games. The team ranks 23rd in scoring offense (19.6 PPG), 28th in rush yards per game (69.5) and 28th in yards per carry (3.5).
The inability to run the ball doesn’t all fall on Whisenhunt’s shoulders. Center Mike Pouncey is on injured reserve and tackle Russell Okung only recently made his return to the lineup. Starting running back Melvin Gordon missed the first four games of the season while holding out for a new contract. And, he has been ineffective since he came back (2.5 yards per carry). That combination of factors would sink any running game, and it certainly has done just that to the Chargers this season.
But, that said, the defense has been good enough — despite injury problems of its own — to keep the team in games. The unit ranks 10th in the league in scoring defense (19.6 PPG) and sixth in pass defense, allowing opposing quarterbacks to throw for just over 217 yards per game. A big part of that success has been the play of the secondary, which, despite the loss of Derwin James and rookie Nassir Adderley, has held up surprisingly well. Defensive end Joey Bosa also deserves plenty of credit, as he has terrorized quarterbacks with seven sacks and 13 QB hits already.
That defense will have to bring its A-game once again this week, as the Chargers welcome arguably the NFC’s best team, the Green Bay Packers, to Los Angeles. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has caught fire as of late, throwing for three or more touchdowns in each of his last two games. Both, interestingly enough, came against AFC West opponents, in the Chiefs and Raiders.
Those numbers have come without Rodgers’ usual top target, wide receiver Davante Adams, in the lineup. In Adams’ absence, players like Marquez Valdez-Scantling, Allen Lazard and running back Aaron Jones have stepped in to keep the passing game rolling. It is that passing game and Rodgers’ play that has CBS Minnesota sports anchor Mike Max feeling that the Packers have the edge.
“What we have seen so far, tells me that Aaron Rodgers is going to control the game. The Chargers got away with one last week against the Bears. They had no business winning that game,” said Max. “They found a way to win the game because of what the Bears did, their self-destruction.”
Max points out that he believes the Chargers defense looked “vulnerable” last week, despite giving up just 16 points. And, unlike Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Rodgers, Max says, will be able to take advantage of that vulnerability.
“He sees things that Trubisky doesn’t,” said Max. “I think the Packers are going to put up 28-31 points or something like that this week.”
The Packers are listed as 3.5 point favorites as of this writing, so it would appear the oddsmakers agree. Kick off on Sunday is set for 1:25 p.m. Pacific Time on CBS.