In Week 9, the Los Angeles Chargers are set to take on the Atlanta Falcons. Expectations remain high for the Chargers, and all eyes will be on them once again. Ahead of the Chargers-Falcons matchup, we will be giving our Week 9 predictions.
The Chargers, led by quarterback Justin Herbert, have gotten off to a slow start this season. They currently sit at 4-3 and are second in the AFC West, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
This Chargers team has been heavily impacted by injuries. In turn, this team has played far below the high expectations that were placed on them heading into the regular season.
Heading into Week 9, the Chargers will be coming off of a bye week, but are still dealing with a fair share of injuries on both sides of the ball. But this team could have the opportunity to get back on track as they take on a Falcons team that has struggled on both sides of the ball.
With the Chargers coming off of a poor loss to the Seattle Seahawks before the bye week, a win against the Falcons could help them get back on track.
Here are three bold predictions for the Chargers in Week 9
3. The Chargers defense has a big day
The Chargers defense was labeled as the NFL’s best before the start of the season. Unfortunately, poor play and injuries across the group have quickly derailed their success.
Joey Bosa, who is currently on the injured reserve, will make his return at some point this season. But the Chargers defense suffered another major blow when they lost J.C. Jackson for the season in Week 7.
Amid their struggles, this defensive unit has managed to still show flashes of what they were meant to be. Taking on a Falcons offense that has been one of the most inconsistent in the NFL could be just what they need.
Led by safety Derwin James, the Chargers could make it a long day for Marcus Mariota and the Falcons. It will just take this group playing at the level that they are expected to.
2. Austin Ekeler is dominant through the air and ground
With the offense missing several key pieces, Herbert could look to his star RB1 early and often.
Ekeler has long since solidified himself as one of the NFL’s most productive running backs. He is used heavily on the ground and through the air and has become a staple in this Chargers offense.
Throughout this season, nothing has changed for Ekeler. After a slow start, Ekeler has once again returned to form, rushing for 380 yards and five touchdowns. Through the air, he has also been a go-to target for Herbert as he currently has 357 receptions for 53 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He is currently leading the team in receptions and is second in receiving yards.
The Falcons defense has done a much better job slowing down the run game this season, compared to through the air. They have allowed just 871 rushing yards this season. But they have also allowed 10 rushing touchdowns, which is tied for the fourth most in the NFL.
Ekeler will see a big share of the targets through the air while playing against this defense. But he will also be able to work on the ground.
The Chargers, even amid their struggles, know how to open their playbook. And if they hope to walk away with a win, Ekeler having a big day could be crucial to their success.
1. Justin Herbert returns to form despite injured wide receivers
Herbert may have an extra incentive to get the win in Week 9 when he looks at who he is playing against. Herbert will be taking on a fellow Oregon Duck in Falcons QB1 Marcus Mariota
The Chargers offense will likely be missing two key playmakers in Week 9. Mike Williams is currently dealing with a high ankle sprain and is expected to be sidelined for the foreseeable future. Keenan Allen is still dealing with the lingering effects of his hamstring injury and may be out once again.
Along with the potential absence of both Williams and Allen, Herbert will also be without Jalen Guyton. He is currently on injured reserve. In turn, he could be forced to lean on running back Austin Ekeler, and the other pass catchers on the roster.
A big day could be on the horizon for both Joshua Palmer and DeAndre Carter, who will both see elevated roles.
Herbert himself, even with injuries impacting the offense, has still managed to put together a solid campaign. In the seven games that he has appeared in this season, he has thrown for 2,009 yards, 12 touchdowns, and four interceptions.
He will now have the luxury of taking on a Falcons defense that has been inconsistent at times. In fact, the Falcons defense has allowed the most passing yards in the NFL with 2,455 passing yards and the third-most passing touchdowns with 14.
Even with the offense dealing with injuries, Herbert has shown that he can lead this group. He could be in line for a big showing against this struggling Falcons defense.