When: 1:30 p.m. | On the air: TV—Ch. 2; Radio—640
When Chargers have the ball
The Chargers seemingly discovered the secret to their offensive woes against the Buffalo Bills, finding ways to get the ball into the hands of their best players. Keenan Allen, their best receiver, got season highs in targets, catches, yards and touchdowns against the Bills. To get Allen loose, the Chargers moved him to different positions on the field, even getting him a rushing attempt early in the first quarter. The team made it a point to send the ball in the direction of Hunter Henry and rookie Mike Williams too. It helped open things up for Melvin Gordon, and the Chargers were able to have their best, most balanced game of the season. They’ll face a Dallas defense missing linebacker Sean Lee, the heart of the Cowboys. Keeping the Cowboys defensive line out of the backfield, especially sack master Demarcus Lawrence, will be a priority.
When Cowboys have the ball
The Dallas offense is missing its engine, running back Ezekiel Elliott, who is serving a suspension. Without Elliott, the Cowboys have struggled, scoring 16 points with six turnovers over the last two games. That should get the Chargers and their defense excited, as they’ve become much better at forcing takeaways. If left tackle Tyron Smith is able to return from injuries, the Cowboys line will be better equipped to handle the Chargers pass rush. If Smith is rusty, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram will continue to hassle the quarterback, even if Dak Prescott is able to scramble out of the pocket. The Cowboys’ two biggest weapons, receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten, will rely on their size, physicality and familiarity with the big stage to make plays.
When they kick
Nick Novak missed a very makeable kick a week ago, but it didn’t cost the Chargers. He needs to be more accurate; he has missed three times in 11 tries this season. The big question on special teams is whether Travis Benjamin will be healthy enough to return punts. He’s dealing with an abdominal injury. If he can’t go, rookie Desmond King will be thrust into a key role. The Cowboys special teams are in a bit of flux as well. Kicker Dan Bailey has sat out the last four games because of a groin injury, but he could return today.
Dan Woike’s prediction
This is essentially a playoff elimination game for the loser, with both teams on the fringes of their postseason races. The Chargers have plenty of momentum, recovering from disaster in Jacksonville to thump the Bills. They got a bit of a headstart because Dallas played the Sunday night game. It seems as if the Chargers are catching the Cowboys at the right time, with Elliott and Lee out. The Chargers will have the better players on the field. The only factor keeping this from a clear advantage has to be the team’s inconsistency. If the Chargers play to their potential, they should keep their improbable climb back into contention going. If they make the mistakes that plagued them in losses to Miami and Jacksonville, they’ll come up short on a national stage. The Chargers young defensive front seven and the weapons on offense should be able to overcome the challenges from a shortened week to steal a win.
CHARGERS 27, COWBOYS 24