Every week, our crack writers pool competes for bragging rights with a prediction of the upcoming Chargers contest. This week: the Houston Texans vs. a decimated Chargers defense (and) offense at NRG Stadium in the Lone Star State.
Follow along all season and post your predictions in the comments below. Who will win the prediction game at the end of the season?
Week 4: vs Texans
Win. Wow I am still emotionally recovering from last week's fallout. That being said it's time for the Chargers to show what they are made of. One positive to take away is it's still early in the season and the Raiders and Chiefs also lost last week so it's anyone's division. I predict a solid game from the Chargers offense and defense.
Think of this as a business trip. Professional and calculated with minimal mistakes, because that's what it will take to come out of Houston with a win.
Score prediction: Chargers 20 - Texans 14
Win. So early in the season will limit the issues of injury and COVID the Bolts faced against the Texans last year. Expect this to be as high scoring as my recent trip to a bowling alley with my inexperienced pal. No mercy.
Score prediction: Chargers 24 - Texans 21
Win. This is a Texans team you cannot take for granted. They are a young competitive team. On paper, Chargers should walk all over them, but on film, the Texans can compete.
Let's also not forget the injuries on the Chargers side. Keenan Allen has been ruled out for the game while Parham and Linsley have been labeled questionable. JC Jackson , Austin Johnson and Justin Herbert were all full participants and expected to play. Not having Joey Bosa is going to hurt, but Kyle Van Noy can hopefully make enough noise opposite Kahlil Mack to keep pressure on Davis Mills.
Mills is an underrated QB who can get the job done as a game manager QB. The Chargers should have won the COVID game the last year when these two teams met. Both teams were missing players due to COVID but the Chargers easily had the better roster. But the Texans came out and straight up out played the Chargers. David Mills went 21-27 254 yards and 2 Touchdowns with Rex Burkhead going 22 for 149 and 2 TDS in a 41-29 Texans Win.
This is a potential redemption game for the Chargers. It will all start up front with a strong 4-man rush on defense. If you can get pressure with just four linemen, you can have success vs Mills. When you send the blitz, Mills is usually smart enough to find someone open quick, so press coverage is a must as well this game.
On offense, the line has to be better at run blocking: the Chargers need to start establishing the run with Austin Ekeler to help take away some hits from Herbert while also opening up the passing game. Austin Ekeler leads the league is missed tackles on receptions with 11 in 3 games. Imagine what the number could be running the ball as well.
The Chargers lead the all-time series 5-3 but have lost 3 of the last 4 vs the Texans, after starting off 4-0. I think Chargers can pull out an ugly, and I mean UGLY win.
Score prediction: Chargers 23 - Texans 20
Win. This won't be close. The Chargers will be ready for this one, and COVID isn't stopping anyone in late 2022.
Score prediction: Chargers 17 - Texans 10
Win. So how did you do it Pep?
For some reason the Football Gods feel that they absolutely have to decimate the Chargers roster before the team heads to Houston to play the Texans. Between injuries and the NFL's Covid Protocols, a skeleton crew of Bolts gifted the Texans a 41-29 win last season on the day after Christmas. That loss to a three-win Texans squad was part of a late season slump that kept Los Angeles out of the postseason.
This season, the Chargers playoff fortunes are already grinding against the guardrails of Tom Telesco's roster-construction after just three games.
One thing is certain. The Texans gave the Chargers their most embarrassing loss of the year in 2021. After last Sunday's misadventures against the Jaguars, the Texans have their work cut out for them if they want that honor again in 2022.
The team heads back to Houston this weekend to visit an old friend. Pep Hamilton, who served as Justin Herbert's quarterback coach in his rookie year, currently works for the Texans as their offensive coordinator.
Pep was instrumental in guiding the rookie QB through a bizarre season that began without any preseason games due to the pandemic. When Herbert was forced into the lineup in week 2 against the Chiefs--following a last minute pain-killing injection punctured starter Tyrod Taylor's lung--the spotlight did not overwhelm him.
Herbert had not taken reps with the starters. He had never taken a snap in a professional game. All he did from there was march the offense down the field and score a touchdown on his first possession.
By season's end Herbert had set all-time rookie records for passing touchdowns (31), completions (396), and 3oo yard passing games (eight). His 4,336 passing yards missed Andrew Luck's 2012 rookie mark by 38 yards despite Herbert playing in one fewer game.
How putrid the Chargers offensive line played as Herbert was piling up those stats on his way to winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year is forgotten by most.
But not by me.
Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked the 2020 Chargers offensive line 32nd in their end of season complication. Before you Google how many NFL clubs there are ranking ahead of them, let's just say, that's really bad.
Center Dan Feeney replaced four-time pro Bowler Mike Pouncey before the first game. Pouncey, considered the team's best lineman, needed a hip replacement at 31-years-old. His career was over. Enter Feeney. Out of the 36 centers graded by PFF, Feeney ranked 35th. Woof.
Pouncey, when healthy, was a dependable center who called out blitzers and organized protection schemes. Feeney, a career backup, is the type of player a team brings in on one year deals to bolster their depth. When his playing days are behind him, Feeney might have a future as a content creator. He looks like a he should be starring in TikTok videos promoting debauchery along the Redneck Riviera.
Forrest Lamp was plugged in at guard to replace Feeney. Right tackle Trey Pipkins—a project with physical tools but without the experience, or acumen—replaced free agent acquisition Bryan Bulaga multiple times as the veteran's body continued to betray him.
Injuries and poor performance led Tom Telesco to cut right guard Trai Turner after one disastrous season in Los Angeles. Turner started in nine games and graded out as one the worst lineman in football. PFF scored him at 34.8 in 2020. The grade was the lowest PFF gave for a starting guard by a wide margin.
At the center of the storm of any discussion revolving around Justin Herbert's long-term health is fan favorite Storm Norton. Ironically, Norton graded out as the team's best pass blocker allowing just one sack and 15 pressures in 309 snaps.
That's right. The Chargers offensive line was so bad in 2020 that Storm Norton was their best pass blocker.
So how did Pep do it? How did the 2020 Chargers conjure such success behind that menagerie of mayhem? Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi can ask him personally at the 50-yard line this weekend.
The team could try to protect Herbert by controlling the game on the ground. I think the patchwork line will have to open some better holes in order for Austin Ekeler to perform. The Chargers are dead last in both rushing yards (59 per game) and rushing yards per attempt (2.6).
Against a Texans front that just surrendered 281 ground yards to the Chicago Bears the hope is that Ekeler can channel his inner Rex Burkhead. Joshua Kelley should see more carries as well.
Houston is dead last in rushing yards allowed (202 per game) and giving up almost six yards per carry. In a contest of weakness versus weakness one of these sides should leave Sunday feeling like they just received a celebrity glow up.
Score prediction: Chargers 20 - Texans 10
Win. This game provides the Chargers an opportunity to dig into the roster and utilize the available depth.
Through winning small victories, the team should be able to build confidence and a rhythm in all three phases.