For the second week in a row, the Eagles face a team looking for its first win. And for the second week in a row, that’s going to be reflected in a head-to-head comparison.
At 2-1, the Eagles appear to be the better team in terms of record. They also appear to be the better team on paper, at least in several areas. We’ll take a look at a few areas where the Chargers may have superior talent, as well as some intangibles likely in their favor.
But spoiler alert: The thinking here is the Eagles have the better squad overall.
Philip Rivers is one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the NFL over the last decade. With a strong arm and routinely saddled with a bad team, Rivers does have a tendency to try to do too much, which often leads to turnovers. But when he’s on, he’s as good as anybody in the league. Carson Wentz shows signs of one day becoming that type of player, but the consistency isn’t there. Right now, Wentz really needs to improve his downfield passing to take the next step.
A first-round draft pick in 2015, Melvin Gordon is steady, though not explosive. He is the Chargers’ primary back, however, which is more than can be said for anybody on the Eagles roster right now. With Darren Sproles out, LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood should see the bulk of the work moving forward. That certainly has the potential to be a dynamic tandem, but Blount is one-dimensional, and Smallwood still an unknown. Gordon does fumble quite a bit – still, he’s a workhorse.
Slight edge: Chargers
WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS
There’s no question Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz will be the two most dangerous offensive players on the field on Sunday. The Chargers simply don’t have anybody that dynamic. Antonio Gates is one of the greatest tight ends of all-time, but at 37 years old, he’s been reduced to a role player in LA’s offense. Keenan Allen is the No. 1 target now, though he hasn’t averaged more than 10.8 yards per catch since his rookie season in 2013. Rivers wishes he had the Eagles’ weapons.
Replacing Isaac Seumalo at left guard made a world of difference for the Eagles. The unit appears to be back on track, finally living up to its reputation as one of the best in the league last week. The Chargers are not so fortunate. Starting right tackle Joe Barksdale is questionable with a foot injury, and not exactly rock solid if he does play. Losing second-round pick Forrest Lamp to a torn ACL in training camp was a huge loss for that group.
Clear edge: Eagles
DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN
Another week, another scary group of pass rushers. Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram already has 5.5 sacks this season, and will be the best defensive player on the field for either team. Give defensive end Joey Bosa 2.5 sacks as well. Meanwhile, the Eagles will likely be without their best lineman in Fletcher Cox due to a calf injury. The defense sagged when Cox went out of the lineup on Sunday, so his absence will be a serious concern.
Slight edge: Chargers
Both clubs lost their best cornerback in Week 1 – Jason Verrett for the Chargers, Ronald Darby for the Eagles – and are just trying to get by with what they have there. Casey Heyward is probably the biggest playmaker there, and can make Wentz pay for any errant passes. But the Eagles are much more dynamic at safety, especially with the return of Rodney McLeod from a hamstring injury. That doesn’t necessarily make up for the situation at corner, but it’s pick your poison with regard to these secondaries.
Very slight edge: Eagles
The Chargers are already regretting going with something called Younghoe Koo at kicker. Koo is just 2 for 6 on field goals of 40 yards or more. Eagles kicker Jake Elliott has been far from perfect himself, going 3 for 5, but he’s certainly shown some range. Even with Sproles out, the Eagles return game should remain dangerous if Kenjon Barner is the replacement. LA’s special teams notoriously stink all around.
Anthony Lynn seems to prefer an old-school, run-first approach, though the Chargers are always trailing, so Rivers tends to heave the football a bunch. Say what you want about Doug Pederson and some of his play-calling, but the Eagles are ahead of the curve with a super modern, aggressive mentality on offense. The defenses are led by former head coaches Gus Bradley and Jim Schwartz, respectively. Pederson and Schwartz get the nod based on experience, as both have been in their jobs for longer.
Slight edge: Eagles
This is a good time to mention the intangibles at work here – namely, the Eagles’ making the trip across the country to Los Angeles. Even if the Chargers don’t have home-field advantage in terms of fan support, they own a distinct travel advantage, which is probably more important. Not only that, but this is a desperate team gunning for its first win. Otherwise, the Eagles look like the superior squad. There just happen to be a few other factors that will be working against them on Sunday.
Slight edge: Eagles