Chargers (3-5) vs. Green Bay (7-1)
When Chargers have the ball
For the first time since January 2016, the Chargers will play a game without Ken Whisenhunt as offensive coordinator. Whisenhunt was fired Monday and replaced on an interim basis by quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen with the Chargers looking to revive their running game and find answers to their inability to consistently reach the end zone. “I think it’s a group effort, everyone — offensive line, tight ends, backs,” Steichen said of running the ball. “All of those guys, everyone has to be on the same page. All it takes is one big run.” Over the last month, the Chargers have had only two of their 63 rushing attempts net more than 10 yards. Green Bay is surrendering 123.8 yards on the ground per game, which ranks 24th in the NFL. What the Packers have done best statistically on defense is prevent points. They are 11th in the league, giving up an average of 20.4. Edge rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith also have combined for 15 sacks, meaning Chargers tackles Russell Okung and Sam Tevi will be challenged. This is an offense that had topped 20 points only once over the past seven weeks. A rebirth under Steichen could be season-changing.
When Packers have the ball
Green Bay’s leading rusher also is the team’s leader in receptions, with Aaron Jones having what Chargers coach Anthony Lynn correctly described as “a breakout year.” Jones has carried 114 times for 466 yards and caught 34 passes for 355 yards. He’s already scored 11 touchdowns. The Chargers’ leader in touchdowns is Austin Ekeler with eight. No one else has more than three. Jones will be a potential matchup nightmare for the Chargers’ linebackers, who have struggled at times in pass coverage. Lynn likened Jones to Ekeler in terms of versatility, adding: “We’re going to have to do the best we can to slow him down.” Green Bay also could be getting back wide receiver Davante Adams. He has missed the past four games because of a toe injury. Adams had 10 receptions for 180 yards in his most recent appearance, Sept. 26 against Philadelphia. The Chargers franchise will be facing quarterback Aaron Rodgers for just the third time. He has won the previous two meetings, the most recent of which came in 2015. Rodgers passed for six touchdowns in his first five games and 10 over the past three games. He has thrown two interceptions this season.
When they kick
It’s the opening weekend of November and, for the first time this season, the Chargers will play a game with their No. 1 kicker and No. 1 punter. Michael Badgley is set to return after missing the first eight games because of a groin injury. Punter Ty Long filled in for Badgley for four games before developing soreness in his left (non-kicking) foot. The team signed Chase McLaughlin, who made six of nine field goals until his release Tuesday. The Packers have had no such uncertainty at kicker. Mason Crosby has not missed game since Green Bay drafted him in the sixth round in 2007. He is 11 of 12 on field goals and 26 of 26 on extra points this season.
Jeff Miller’s prediction
For the second consecutive week, the Packers will go on the road and try to beat an AFC West representative. Last Sunday, they beat a Kansas City team that was missing Patrick Mahomes but still had the backing of Arrowhead Stadium. In this game, the Packers won’t be facing that task as Dignity Health Sports Park will be dominated by fans cheering for Green Bay. Lambeau West will serve them well.
PACKERS 34, CHARGERS 20