Chargers (1-2) at Miami (0-3)
When Chargers have the ball
Wide receiver Keenan Allen has been targeted an NFL-high 42 times already, including 32 the last two games. He’s likely to continue leading the league by a wide margin after Sunday. The Chargers will definitely be without No. 2 receiver Mike Williams (back) and likely without No. 3 Travis Benjamin (hip). Allen has been the team’s lone consistently productive weapon, a situation that should eventually change with the return of running back Melvin Gordon, who might play against Miami given the injury to Justin Jackson (calf). The fact Gordon could be on the field Sunday only three days after ending his holdout is quite telling about where the Chargers’ offense is these days. Whoever ends up getting the ball, this team will have to be better after halftime. Over their last two games, the Chargers’ second-half possessions have netted two missed field goals, two punts, two fumbles, an interception, a turnover on downs and one successful field goal. “It’s hard to win a game only scoring in two quarters or only playing well as an offense for two quarters and then kind of stalling out,” running back Austin Ekeler said.
When Dolphins have the ball
Miami’s offense ranks last in, among other categories, scoring, completion percentage and passer rating. The Dolphins are next to last in total yards, rushing yards and first downs. Beyond that, they’re on pace to absolutely destroy the record for fewest points in a 16-game season. The Dolphins have one touchdown and three field goals, that meager production coming in 34 possessions. All of which means the Chargers defense should be just slightly eager for this game to kick off. Miami is being led by former UCLA Bruin Josh Rosen, who is still trying to prove that he is or isn’t a future franchise quarterback for some team. It is worth mention that the Chargers faced Rosen last season, in late November, when he was still with Arizona and the Cardinals opened that game with a 10-0 lead. But, oh yeah, the Chargers scored the next 45 points. The idea, however, is Rosen has had a sliver of success against a Gus Bradley defense. The Chargers pass rush has generated only four sacks through three games. Miami’s quarterbacks have been sacked 13 times, tied for third worst in the league.
When they kick
The Chargers had the AFC’s special teams player of the week in their opener, Ty Long, handling both punting and kicking in the injury absence of Michael Badgley, who will miss his fourth straight game Sunday because of a groin issue. But no team in the league has been worse so far when it comes to returning punts. In fact, the Chargers have actually gone backward in that regard. In four returns, Desmond King has amassed minus-one yard. The Dolphins haven’t done a lot right lately, but they do have an accomplished punter. Matt Haack set a team record last season with 35 kicks inside the 20-yard line. Advantage — yes! — Miami.
If the Chargers lose this game, they might want to scatter and disappear forever into the Everglades. Sure, they’ve been struggling, but Miami is tanking. But then, it was a Chargers team that became the only victim of the 1-15 Cleveland Browns in 2016. And, regardless of what year it is, the Chargers do have a habit of making things more difficult than they really need to be. Still the Dolphins have been outscored 133-16.
CHARGERS 30, DOLPHINS 9