It’s Christmas Eve and while many are traveling across the United States to visit loved ones for the holidays, the San Diego Chargers have to travel across the country to face the Cleveland Browns.
They sit at 5-9 on the season and are staring down the reality that this will be the final season in San Diego as the owner plans to move the team to Los Angeles starting next season.
Browns fans know that scenario all too well after the team played it’s final season in Cleveland in 1995 before the now Ravens moved to Baltimore. The team’s emotions are numb and while they want to go out and win for the fans who have remained loyal for years but with uncertainty of where the players will live and the future of their families lives remain unknown for now.
Meanwhile the Cleveland Browns are still trying to get their first win of the season and this will likely be their last real opportunity for a win and to avoid 0-16.
San Diego has been up and down all season, they’ve lost so many close games that if they would’ve squeaked a couple out in the end, they’d be right in the thick of the competitive AFC West division race with Oakland, Denver and Kansas City.
Matchup to watch
Tyrell Williams vs Joe Haden
The second year receiver has come out of nowhere this season as Phillip Rivers top target in the Chargers offense.
With 59 catches, 925 yards and six touchdowns, he’s established himself as one of the talented receivers San Diego has given to the veteran gunslinger.
At 6’4 and with a forty time of 4.4, Williams is the Terrelle Pryor for the San Diego Chargers.
Joe Haden will likely be shadowing Williams this week.
Haden was named a Pro Bowl alternate earlier this week after having a decent comeback season with 46 tackles and three interceptions.
But Haden also revealed to reporters that if called to play in the Pro a Bowl he’ll have to decline as he’s getting surgery on both groin muscles once the season ends.
Hopefully Haden has enough left in those muscles to be able to shutdown Williams on Saturday.
Keys to the game
The Chargers defense is one of the best at getting turnovers in the NFL. They rank second with 27 (17 interceptions, 10 fumble recoveries).
The Cleveland Browns rank tied for 11th in giveaways with 21 (13 interceptions, 8 fumbles).
If the Browns want any chance to win Saturday, avoid turning the ball over.
Robert Griffin III needs to get the ball out quick and accurately but avoid cornerback Casey Heyward who has seven interceptions and was just selected to the Pro Bowl.
The Chargers have forced 14 fumbles as a team with linebacker Melvin Ingram leading the way with five. If the Browns run the ball a lot, Crowell and Johnson must hold onto the ball tight.
Stop the Pass Attack
Phillip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks of this generation. Still even at 35 years old, he’s still showing how good he is with 3,795 yards and 29 touchdowns.
And he has a great group of both veterans and young talent surrounding him:
- Tyrell Williams (925 yards, 6 touchdowns)
- Dontrelle Inman (715 yards, 4 touchdowns)
- Travis Benjamin (602 yards, 4 touchdowns)
- Antonio Gates (399 yards, 5 touchdowns)
- Hunter Henry (435 yards, 7 touchdowns)
The Browns secondary has been pretty bad all season but has some pieces for the future in fourth year player Jamar Taylor at nickel and undrafted rookie Briean Boddy-Calhoun both making strides.
Joe Haden has been up and down fighting through injuries and Tramon Williams provide veteran leadership. They’ll all need to come together to stop the potentially dangerous Chargers receiving corp.
As much as I’d love to see the Browns squeak a win out, I just can’t see it in the final two games.
San Diego has too much talent on both sides of the ball for the Browns to handle.
Our offensive line better be ready to stop Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa or whoever is at QB during the day will be in for a rough one.
Our defense has given up 29 points per game and I expect them to give up a lot to a tough San Diego offense. Even with Melvin Gordon out, they have enough firepower to torch Cleveland.
And at the game’s most important position, San Diego’s is miles ahead of Cleveland’s. I expect this to be Robert Griffin’s final game with the Browns and I also expect Cody Kessler to get some playing time as head coach Hue Jackson tries anything to win.
In the end, it still won’t be enough.
Chargers 31 Browns 13