When Chargers have the ball
During Justin Herbert’s rookie year in 2020, in starts 10 and 11, the Chargers failed to top 17 points in losses to Buffalo (27-17) and New England (45-0). For the first time since, back-to-back games without eclipsing 17 in losses to Dallas (20-17) and Kansas City (31-17). The offense under first-year coordinator Kellen Moore has underwhelmed of late, the Chargers struggling to protect Herbert and run with any consistency. Their line is missing veteran center Corey Linsley (heart-related issue), while tackles Rashawn Slater (ankle, shoulder) and Trey Pipkins III (ankle) play through injuries. Running back Austin Ekeler (ankle) also has been hampered. The promising news for the Chargers is only three teams have allowed more points this season than the Bears but their best defensive games have come the last two weeks when they limited Minnesota and Las Vegas to one touchdown apiece. They held the Vikings and Raiders to a combined 85 yards rushing on 36 attempts, an average of 2.4 yards per carry. None of this is encouraging for the Chargers. Also not encouraging: receiver Joshua Palmer (knee) is questionable. So, potentially, it’s back to seeing if this is the week rookie first-round pick Quentin Johnston makes his presence felt.
When Bears have the ball
Undrafted rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent won his first career start last weekend, beating Las Vegas 30-12 largely with a series of quick passes and a running game that generated 13 of Chicago’s 23 first downs. The Bears rank in the top five in yards rushing but are missing their leading back (Khalil Herbert, ankle) and elusive quarterback (Justin Fields, right thumb). Still, they ran for 173 yards against the Raiders, which helped establish an almost 10-minute advantage in time of possession. “It starts with the ground game with [Chicago]…” Chargers’ defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley said. “The Bears know who they want to be.” There’s little doubt Chicago will attempt to keep the football away from Herbert and test a Chargers run defense that hasn’t been challenged a ton, mostly because of how poorly the pass defense has played. Facing Bagent, the Chargers should have more success stopping the pass and limiting explosive plays. But will that be enough, especially if the offense keeps sputtering?
When they kick
Cameron Dicker is coming off a game in which he set a career-best by hitting a 55-yard field goal in Kansas City. For the season, he is eight of nine on field goals and has made all 16 extra-point tries. Chicago’s Cairo Santos is 11 of 11 on field goals and 15 of 16 on extra points.
By the numbers
Jeff Miller’s prediction
Entering Week 8, only Buffalo was a bigger favorite than the Chargers, an interesting development given how they’ve performed lately. The Bills were giving 10 points to Tampa Bay on Thursday night before winning by six. Throughout the week, the Chargers were favored by anywhere from 8.5 to 9.5. That’s way too many points, particularly for a team that, because of the typical game-day breakdown of the SoFi Stadium crowd, doesn’t experience home games. BEARS 22, CHARGERS 20
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.