Jake Elliott is now a household name in Philadelphia after the rookie banged a 61-yard field goal to give the Eagles the win over the Giants last week. The kicker is having a better season then his counterpart Younghoe Koo, who has been a goat for Los Angeles.
The Chargers can't even blame Koo for their problems last week when they lost 24-10 to Kansas City. Three turnovers and failing to stop the Chiefs’ ground game were the biggest reasons for their latest failure. San Diego's first two losses came by three points at Denver and two points at home against Miami. Outside of Melvin Gordon, the offense just doesn't scare too many opponents. Philip Rivers has been a mixed bag this season himself. Rivers put up more than 300 passing yards in the Miami loss, but struggled to get much going in his other two contests.
The Eagles sit at 2-1 with two NFC East wins under their belts. Philly is on the road for the third time already so there's some concern about the cross-country trip for them. There's also some worry about the injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Already without Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod, Philly added Fletcher Cox and Jordan Hicks to the list of the walking wounded on Sunday. Hicks and McLeod are working their way back and are the closest to return with Darby and Cox expected to miss a week or two. We'll see how the offense does without Darren Sproles who is done for the season. He's the offense’s Swiss Army knife and will be sorely missed.
While this is a true road game, Philly fans will make it feel like home. We've already seen several other fan bases descend upon the Chargers temporary home. Whether that translates to anything on the field is to be seen, but this LA experiment has failed so far in the stands, not that an 0-3 start has given fans much to cheer about either.
Philadelphia at Los Angeles
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 1 at 4:05 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Chargers -1
Three Things to Watch
1. Run, run and run it some more
Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson committed to the run last Sunday against the Giants and it paid off to the tune of 193 rushing yards and a considerable edge (37:32 to 22:28) in the time of possession department. LeGarrette Blount averaged almost six yards per carry after not getting any the previous week. Blount is able to move the pile and pound on the defense late when you need first downs to run out the clock. Wendell Smallwood chipped in 71 yards on 12 carries and he'll be asked to do more with Darren Sproles done for the year. The Eagles like to use play-action with Carson Wentz and it isn't effective if the team doesn't believe that you are actually going to run it. Los Angeles' defense has already allowed two teams to put up at least 140 yards on the ground. When teams have balance it makes them harder for defenses to figure out.
2. Will there be muddy Rivers on Sunday?
The Eagles’ secondary did just enough to win the game last week. Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and Rasul Douglas are growing up on the job with top cornerback Ronald Darby out for a while. Odell Beckham Jr. had his way with Mills for most of the game, but Douglas did record a big interception against Eli Manning. Can this young group succeed against Philip Rivers? The problem for the home team is that they don't have a Beckham although Keenan Allen will be a challenge. Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams don't scare anyone and tight end Antonio Gates is getting older. If Rodney McLeod returns from injury that will allow Malcolm Jenkins to shadow the Chargers’ tight ends, which is bad news for Gates and Hunter Henry. Rivers has to cut down on the turnovers and the offensive line needs to give him enough time to find his receivers.
3. Special teams
As mentioned above, the kickers in this one have traveled different paths. Younghoe Koo is 2-for-5 with the three misses coming from 40 yards or farther. If you don't trust your kicker then that changes your play-calling and it changes how desperate you become at the end of the game. Jake Elliott has missed two kicks of his own, but he came up big last week nailing the game-winner from 61 yards out. Donnie Jones and Drew Kaser are very good punters who are capable of flipping field position. We'll see what happens with the Eagles’ punt return duties now that Sproles is on the shelf. First and foremost is focusing on securing the football and then worry about what comes next.
The handicapper in me is worried about the cross-country trip and the typical East Coast team struggling out west. The problem with that is that the StubHub Center will feel like an Eagles home game considering how well that fan base travels. For the second straight week, Philadelphia gets a desperate opponent dying for a win. Start fast and this shouldn't be an issue. Somehow though, every Philip Rivers game feels like it has him with the ball needing to go the length of the field in order to win. Once again, he falls short and the Eagles head east with a nice road victory.
Prediction: Eagles 23, Chargers 21
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.