Chargers vs. Atlanta Falcons matchups, how to watch and prediction

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert prepares to snap the ball during a loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 23.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert prepares to snap the ball during a loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 23. Herbert and the Chargers have struggled on offense over the last three games.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Breaking down how the Chargers (4-3) and the Atlanta Falcons (4-4) match up heading into their game at 10 a.m. PST on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The game will be shown on Fox (Ch. 11) and streamed on NFL+.


When Chargers have the ball

Chargers wide receiver DeAndre Carter runs with the ball against the Seahawks on Oct. 23.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

By many measures, quarterback Justin Herbert has had his three least productive performances of the season over the last four games. The Chargers’ offense hasn’t been as efficient or explosive as Herbert and several players deal with injuries.


In Atlanta, they will face a defense that offers the possibility of improved health. The Falcons rank last in the NFL against the pass and next-to-last in yards yielded per play. They’ve given up at least 300 yards passing to Joe Burrow, Tom Brady, P.J. Walker and Geno Smith. Burrow smoked Atlanta for 481 yards and three touchdowns.

Of course, the Cincinnati quarterback had his top receivers that day. Herbert will be without Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (ankle). Over their last two-plus games, the Chargers have scored only four touchdowns on 27 possessions.

The Chargers will be without both starting receivers on Sunday against the Falcons, and that has led to Austin Ekeler on the verge of an NFL record.

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Despite having Herbert’s big right arm, the offense also is no better than 18th in red-zone touchdown percentage. The Falcons are 22nd in red-zone defense. Sustaining drives has been another issue at times this season for the Chargers.

Again, Atlanta might offer a respite, being 30th in stopping teams on third down. Though this ailing offense hasn’t looked great of late, the Chargers — injuries and all — are walking into a promising matchup.


When Falcons have the ball

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 30.
(John Amis / Associated Press)


When Marcus Mariota replaced an injured Derek Carr in 2020, the results for the Chargers weren’t great.

Oh, they won the game that Thursday night, but only after chasing Mariota, then the backup for Las Vegas, all over Allegiant Stadium. After Carr departed in the second quarter, Mariota threw for 226 yards and a touchdown and ran for 88 yards and another touchdown. The Chargers eventually prevailed in overtime, but, if Mariota gets loose again Sunday, the images might look too familiar for some fans.

Asked what makes Mariota dangerous, Chargers defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill said: “His ability to get out and escape ... that’s something that we have to be aware of, and we have to try to contain him because if he gets out of the pocket and extend plays, it can be a long day.”

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Unlike the Chargers, who have received little behind running back Austin Ekeler, the Falcons feature three backs — Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson and Caleb Huntley — who have carried at least 57 times apiece. Mariota has 55 carries and has run for three touchdowns. This should be concerning for a Chargers defense that is 27th against the run and has been susceptible to big plays.


When they kick

Cameron Dicker will be the Chargers’ third kicker in as many games as he replaces the injured Taylor Bertolet (quadriceps), who was replacing the injured Dustin Hopkins (hamstring).


A rookie, Dicker made his NFL debut in Week 5, hitting two field goals and two extra points for Philadelphia.

Atlanta’s kicker, Younghoe Koo, appeared in four games for the 2017 Chargers.

Jeff Miller’s prediction: The Chargers are favored, presumably because of the quarterback matchup and Atlanta’s leaky defense. But with all their injuries, the Chargers will be thin and ripe to be picked off.


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