COSTA MESA, Calif. – What's the best thing to do after a long flight? Get into a meeting room and loosen up and get the blood flowing with kickoff just 22 hours away. That's what the Eagles did as they arrived at their Southern California hotel on Saturday, with the Los Angeles Chargers next up on Sunday.
This is a game with intriguing storylines. Los Angeles is maybe the best 0-3 team out there (there are five 0-3 teams, including the Giants) with a lot of talent on offense and a defense led by bookend pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.
Yet, the Chargers are in a pickle. They play at the StubHub Center and fail to generate any kind of home-field advantage. Eagles fans are expected to jam the place on Sunday, giving Philadelphia the home feel on the road. The Chargers have had serious injury problems, including the yet-to-help draft class with No. 1 pick wide receiver Mike Williams still unable to play because of a back injury and guard Forrest Lamp, a second-round pick, out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in early August.
This is another desperate team the Eagles are facing. So how ready are the Eagles to win on the road? Can they deliver a knockout punch to the Chargers? Here are some matchups to win in this Week 4 game.
Eagles OTs Lane Johnson And Jason Peters Vs. Pass Rush
This is another test for Johnson and Peters. Bosa is a high-energy, extremely talented second-year player who wowed as a rookie. Ingram has 5.5 quarterback sacks and was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Month for September. So this won't be easy. Johnson had his best game of the season last week to help beat the Giants. Peters looked like he might not make it to the end for a bit during the game, so his durability will be watched here.
Keeping the edges secure is especially important here. Los Angeles has allowed opposing quarterbacks a completion percentage of more than 67, so if Wentz has time, he could have success.
Eagles DT Beau Allen Vs. Chargers RB Melvin Gordon
Allen gets the call in place of Fletcher Cox. The Eagles also activated Justin Hamilton for some depth, so the numbers are good at defensive tackle. But Allen has a chance to step up here against his former college teammate, Gordon. A knee injury slowed Gordon last week but he's OK for this game. The Eagles must not allow him to get established.
Allen won't be as good as Cox, and certainly won't command double teams, but he has good burst and can pressure the quarterback. He won't be on the field in nickel situations, however. Allen has to make his plays in the run game.
Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery Vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward
Is this the game that Jeffery breaks loose? Hayward is the Chargers' best cornerback and he and Jason Verrett were great together. But Verrett is lost for the season with a knee injury and the Chargers are being taxed in the secondary. Jeffery has solid numbers – 14 receptions for 186 yards and a touchdown – and maybe he busts out here.
Vs. Chargers QB Philip Rivers
Two quarterbacks who are cerebral, athletic, not afraid to take chances. Wentz wore Rivers' jersey when he was a kid and there is a lot of admiration there. This game could very well come down to which quarterback has the best game. Wentz has played well on the road and the Eagles need a second win away from Lincoln Financial Field and, yeah, the Chargers are going to go after him.
Rivers had a terrible game with three interceptions last week in the loss to Kansas City. Don't expect him to have back-to-back poor outings. Rivers is 2-1 with five interceptions and zero interceptions in his games against the Eagles. The Eagles must get Rivers out of his comfort zone.
Eagles S Rodney McLeod Vs. Chargers WR Travis Benjamin
Keenan Allen is the go-to pass catcher for Rivers, and the tight ends Antonio Gates and Hunter Henry are dangerous targets, but Benjamin brings the element of deep speed that threatens the Eagles' secondary. McLeod returns after missing last week's game and, hopefully, his hamstring is fine and healthy and ready for the entire 60 minutes.
Benjamin has nine receptions on the season and had five catches for 101 yards last week, including a 44-yard play. The Eagles cannot allow the Chargers to have "chunk" plays. Rivers likes to take shots. McLeod is the man on the spot here.