The Los Angeles Chargers (1-1) will play their second home game in a row at SoFi Stadium on Sunday afternoon against the Carolina Panthers (0-2) at 1:05 p.m. local time on CBS with Greg Gumbel and Rich Gannon calling the game.
The Chargers have been subpar when facing the Panthers having a 1-5 record all0time record against the team from Carolina. In fact, the only time the Chargers beat the Panthers was in 2004 in a 17-6 victory when Drew Brees was the quarterback. The last time the two teams faced off was in 2016, and the Panthers won 28-16.
The Bolts know that record doesn't matter, and they know how dangerous Carolina can be even without running back Christian McCaffrey. Anthony Lynn stated that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a great quarterback who will make a team pay if they aren't prepared.
"Teddy can make every throw," said Lynn. "He's very accurate. And he can move around, you know, he can even create a lot of problems for you. So, you got to keep them in the pocket and his right arm strength, so you got to get some pressure and get to him a little bit."
The biggest matchup to watch will be the Chargers running backs, Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley, against the Panthers defense. Carolina has allowed six rushing touchdowns to backs in two games. They have allowed 127.5 yards rushing yards per game. The combo of Ekeler and Kelley have combined for over 400 yards offense in the first two games. The Panthers also listed star defensive tackle Kawann Short "doubtful" for the game on Sunday, so feeding the two backs maybe work in the Chargers favor to come away with a victory.
Defensive player to watch
The Panthers have listed their left tackle Russell Okung as questionable for Sunday, and that could work in the Chargers benefit, especially defensive end Joey Bosa. He has been dealing with a triceps injury but was still all over the field wreaking havoc last weekend and even sacked Patrick Mahomes. This season Teddy Bridgewater has been sacked six times, which is tied for the sixth most. I expect the Gus Bradley and defensive line coach Giff Smith to line Bosa up on both sides to give the superstar pass rusher the best opportunity to disrupt Bridgewater.
Offensive player to watch
The player to watch on offense will be rookie quarterback Justin Herbert. This will be his second start this season. Last week, he was thrown into the fire literally seconds before the game started. He has had all week to prepare for this game. He said on Friday that he feels comfortable going into this weekend, and he feels like his relationship with his offensive weapons and line has improved as well. It will be interesting to see what the rookie has got.
Key to the game
It seems like this is the key every week, but it has to be the defense. They will have to set the tone and rattle Bridgewater. The Buccaneers last week forced him to throw two interceptions. This week, Bradley said that he wants the defense to create more turnovers, so this week may be the best opportunity. The pass rush will be missing defensive end Melvin Ingram, who is "doubtful" to play, so they will need Uchenna Nwosu to step up on Sunday like he has several times in the past.
The Chargers are 6.5-point favorites going into the game on Sunday. The Chargers have a couple of injuries at the linebacker position with Nick Vigil and Asmar Bilal, so Lynn said they will need to promote one from the practice squad by Sunday. The Panthers have some notable injuries with left tackle Russell Okung being questionable with a groin injury and guard Dennis Daley being doubtful with a thigh injury. This only is a positive for the defense. On the defensive side, Short will most likely miss the game, so he won't be able to cause havoc on the offensive line.
Chargers 28 Panthers 17