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Chargers Mailbag: Another Flex, Early Deficits & Key Matchups Against the Raiders


Welcome to the Chargers Mailbag! I'm Senior Writer Eric Smith, and I answer questions from the Bolt Fam each and every week.

Send in submissions for the Mailbag here on Twitter or by sending me an email.

Off we go…

Why do we keep getting flexed to Sunday Night Football? (Frank via email)

In case you missed the news Tuesday evening, the Bolts Week 14 game against the Dolphins was flexed into primetime.

This will now be the third time in five weeks the Chargers will be on TV for all to see, following games against the 49ers and Chiefs.

Why does it keep happening? Two words for you.

Los Angeles.

A massive media market is always going to draw eyeballs, and the Chargers have certainly risen in both prominence and notoriety this season.

Two more sets of words for you.

Justin Herbert vs. Tua Tagovailoa.

This Week 14 matchup pits the No. 5 (Tagovailoa) and No. 6 (Herbert) overall picks in the 2020 NFL Draft against each other for the second time in their young careers.

As it stands now, the pair of young quarterbacks appear to be in line to be among the handful of faces of the entire league for the foreseeable future.

And given the fact they were drafted one pick apart, a notion that sparks Twitter debates across the country on a daily basis, there is plenty of intrigue here.

Finally, there's also the team aspect.

The Dolphins could be 9-3 by then and still atop the AFC East, while a potential 7-5 Chargers team could be making their move to get into a postseason spot.

For the purpose of this exercise, let's hypothetically assume the race for the final AFC Wild Card spot is between the Bolts and Jets. (It's not, but let's pretend like it is).

The Jets sit at 7-4 and currently occupy the No. 7 seed, while the Chargers are 6-5 and are in the No. 9 spot.

Here are the final six games for New York: at Vikings, at Bills, Lions, Jaguars, at Seahawks and at Dolphins.

And for the Chargers: at the Raiders, Dolphins, Titans, at Colts, Rams and at Broncos.

New York plays four teams with a winning record — all on the road — and two others (Lions and Jags) who have proven to be feisty this season.

Let's imagine here the Jets hold serve at home but lose three of four on the road against four quality teams to finish 10-7, with the win being at Seattle. That would also give the Jets a 6-6 conference record.

That's important because the Bolts and Jets don't play each other this season, so the next tiebreaker is their conference record.

And, for the sake of this exercise, let's say the Chargers get wins over the Raiders, Dolphins, Colts and Broncos to also finish 10-7. In that very, very hypothetical scenario, the Bolts would have an 8-4 conference record.

Take all of this with a few grains of salt. It's simply one way to show how the Bolts could get into over the Jets if both teams finish 10-7.

Really though, the best bet for the Chargers would be to try and get to 11 wins and put pressure on other teams to do the same.

I don't know, Josh. It's one of the more puzzling aspects of this season.

I do know the Chargers have trailed by double digits in five different games this season (Browns, Broncos, Seahawks, Falcons and Cardinals), yet have rallied to win four of them.

The Bolts have not had a double-digit lead of their own after the first quarter this season, for what it's worth.

On one hand, the resiliency of this squad is commendable in that they always keep fighting and find a way to claw back even when they're down early. Not every team would do that.

But on the other hand, it's a bit exhausting to keep having to climb out of a big hole every other week instead of being ready at the jump.

The Chargers have tried to find remedies to this, even switching up their practice schedule so they had more game-like scenarios off the bat to try and get into game mode during the week.

The hope is that, at some point, the Chargers figure it out and get off to a hot start of their own for once.

Because if the Bolts do indeed make the playoffs, strong teams likely won't allow them to rally like they have for most of this season.

Stop. The. Run.

Did you see Josh Jacobs run for a franchise-record 229 yards on Sunday?

That guy is on fire lately and now leads the league in rushing.

If the Bolts want to win, they'll need to try and make the Raiders one-dimensional by taking the run away and forcing Las Vegas into obvious passing situations. That was the formula for success in Week 1 when the Raiders managed just 64 yards on the ground.

Granted, the Chargers front seven looked a bit different then, but the recipe for a win Sunday should remain the same.

It will likely be all hands on deck against Adams, who is on the cusp of yet another 1,000-yard season.

If there's a benefit for the Bolts, it's that this same secondary faced Adams back in the season opener. Remember, J.C. Jackson did not play in that game, so Michael Davis, Asante Samuel, Jr., and Bryce Callahan all drew matchups against Adams.

As for Davis, he seems to have rounded into form of late and is playing well since moving back into a full-time starting role after Jackson's injury.

I asked Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley about him Monday after the cornerback received a game ball after the win over Arizona.

"I just thought he covered well. I thought he tackled well yesterday and just showed a lot of toughness," Staley said. "I feel like, I said it in my speech, I really wish he had that interception at the end because it just would have capped a really, I thought, quality performance by him.

"I think as a coach you are always trying to point out the example of your players playing tough and rugged and doing it right and I thought that he played well yesterday," Staley added.

The Bolts will need another strong performance by Davis — and everyone else — to help slow down Adams.

No update here.

Bosa posted on his Instagram on Sunday night that he's working hard to return. And Staley didn't have an update Monday when asked about him.

This is Week 9 of the timetable that was laid out awhile back, so we're all waiting for him to return to practice and take that next step.

Until then, stay patient with it.

My hunch here is that Austin is sneakily trying to ask me about the left guard spot rather than the entirety of the offensive line.

Because when everyone is fully healthy, there's no doubt that Rashawn Slater, Corey Linsley, Zion Johnson and Trey Pipkins III would be in their respective spots.

But given the emergence of Jamaree Salyer in Slater's absence this season, some on Twitter have wondered if he's a long-term candidate at left guard, where Matt Feiler is now.

I don't have an answer for that one since we'll have to see how the offseason plays out, and we're still a ways out from that.

So, to answer your original question, I'd roll with the same starting group the Charger used in Week 1 of Slater, Feiler, Linsley, Johnson and Pipkins.

That will do it for this week.

As always, you can find me on Twitter at @EricLSmith and submit your questions for the Chargers Mailbag.

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