Here are five keys to the game heading into the Week 4 match between the Los Angeles Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles:
1. A Rivers Rebound – It's been discussed ad nauseam how Philip Rivers is coming off one of the worst performances of his career. Now it's time to put that talk to bed. Rivers himself admitted the worst thing you can do is overreact to one bad game. He simply needs to put it behind him and rebound with a vintage performance:
"You're never really OK with it. Games like (last week) are games that I can almost name the handful that I've had the last 10 years. Thankfully, it's just a handful and not a lot of them."
Coincidentally, Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson expects to see Rivers take the field as a man on a mission. After all, he's seen it time and time again:
"The one thing with Philip Rivers (is), when I was with Kansas City I was playing the Chargers twice a year (and found out) Philip always bounces back. He might have a tough week. But the next week, you better watch out. He can definitely light it up. That's just the type of player he is. He's a tremendous leader. He gets the most out of his players and makes everybody around him better. That's obviously what I expect from him this weekend."
2. Contain Carson – Last year's number two overall pick is off to a strong start as Carson Wentz has taken his game to the next level. The QB has completed 72 of 116 passes on the year (62.1%) for 816 yards, five touchdowns and just two picks for a 90.3 passer rating. He's also carried the ball 13 times for 83 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. What makes Wentz so dangerous is his ability to extend plays with his feet. Not only can he then take off, but he keeps his eyes downfield, often making the defense pay with his arm while on the move. Head Coach Anthony Lynn weighed in on what makes Wentz so dangerous:
"His mobility (is a weapon). His ability to escape the pocket and make plays. They do a good job of staying alive when he gets out of that pocket, so we really want to contain that. Those are plays that don't show up on tape that you can't prepare for. So they do a good job with that."
3. "Attack the YAC" – That's what Keenan Allen said the Bolts' wideouts must do after struggling in that department the first three games of the year. The Chargers have long been an explosive offense, yet only have one play over 40 yards. Travis Benjamin has been the lone wideout thriving in that area, ranking second in the NFL averaging 16.0 yards after the catch. Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, there's been a lot of talk of the success the New York Giants had a week ago with quick strikes. Eli Manning got into a groove, getting the ball out of his hands within two seconds. Furthermore, Philly has given up 460 yards after the catch, which is the third-worst mark in the league. Should the Chargers opt to attack the Eagles in a similar manner, the onus will be on the wideouts to get those extra yards. Here's what Allen had to say about the mindset once the ball is in his hands:
"I'm most definitely trying to attack the YAC (yards after catch). It's being a baller. Once you get the ball you have to turn into a punt returner or runner, and just go at it."
4. Zero in on Zach Ertz – Travis Kelce came into last week's game as one of the hottest tight ends in the NFL. The Bolts limited him to a single catch for a single game. Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley's unit also did a strong job Week 2 against Julius Thomas. Now, they face another dangerous tight end in Zach Ertz, who leads all at his position with 21 receptions for 245 yards. Ertz has emerged as Wentz's favorite target, also opening things up on the outside for a trip of strong WR options in Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor. Bradley described how Ertz compares to Kelce, and why it is pivotal to limit his damage:
"Very similar in how they utilize him. They come from the same system. What you see in Kansas City, you see some of those flashes in Philadelphia. Then there are some parts that are completely different. They'll flex him out and get him in matchups….I think it's like we said last week. We (need) to have awareness of where he's at."
5. Don't Worry About the Record – There's nothing that can be done at this point about the first three games and the team's 0-3 record. However, the worst thing the Bolts can do is doubt themselves or their ability. The good news is it appears Philip Rivers won't let that happen. There is still plenty of time left in the season to accomplish all their goals despite the adverse start to the season. Number 17 remains confident the team can go on a run. As he explained, they simply have to just win one, and go from there:
"Let's just win a game. Let's just win a football game, and then I think we have the capability to go on a run. We've got to win one first. The way we lost the first two, and then last week, it can cause you to go, 'Shoot, are we ever going to win one?' It seems like in years past (that) we've played our best when we're a little bit backed against the wall. A little bit of (we have) nothing to lose. And I don't mean that we have nothing to lose, but just play a little bit, not reckless, but just go play. Don't worry about the 0-3. Don't worry about the percentages of teams that bounce back."