Capable Californians’ Crucial Challenge: Browns-Chargers Preview

With only five games to go, the Cleveland Browns (0-11) are running out of chances for their first win of the season. The good news is, this Sunday they will visit the team that granted them their lone win of 2016 – the Los Angeles Chargers (5-6). Christmastime is a season of traditions so maybe the Brownies can start a new December one by knocking off the Bolts in California.

Are the Browns favored?

Not even a little bit. Los Angeles enters as 13.5 point favorites. Cleveland will play underdog for the ninth straight week, and it is reasonable to think they’ll hold that position for the rest of the year.

Head to Head

San Diego/Los Angeles leads the series 15-9-1. Cleveland won the most recent matchup and two of the past three. The Browns haven’t beaten the Chargers in Cali since October 20, 1991. Bernie Kosar threw two touchdowns that day to lead the Orange Helmets to a 30-24 win.

Chargers Preview

After opening the season with four straight losses, the Chargers have almost righted the ship. The past two weeks featured a turnover-palooza against the Bills and a dominant Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys in Dallas. At 5-6, LA is one game behind Kansas City in the AFC West. The Bolts have a prime time game upcoming against the Chiefs and will  get their chance to compete for a division title. Their wild card prospects are similar, a game behind the Ravens for the six seed.

Phillip Rivers still plays quarterback for the Chargers. The 35-year-old has enjoyed a decent year going 241-of-388 for 2,948 yards, twenty touchdowns, and seven interceptions. The Chargers have already matched their win total from last season so maybe the hike up I-5 rejuvenated Rivers. Running back Melvin Gordon has racked up 698 yards along with 5 touchdowns. The third-year back from Wisconsin has enjoyed a fine season, though he would need a remarkable December to match last season’s ten touchdown total. Wide receiver Keenan Allen has pulled down 67 passes for 927 yards and four touchdowns. Rivers certainly doesn’t play favorites through the air; seven different players have caught a touchdown pass.

Hey Buckeye fans, remember Joey Bosa? A second-year defensive end for the Chargers, the Ohio State product is enjoying a monster season. Bosa has recorded 10.5 sacks (fifth in the NFL), 35 tackles, three forced fumbles (fifth in the NFL) and a defended pass. He went third overall to the Chargers in 2016. Cleveland held the second overall pick for a little bit before dealing it to Philadelphia. I can’t help but wonder how the Browns’ defensive line would look with Joey Bosa on one end and Myles Garrett on the other.

Rookie Spotlight

Speaking of Myles, the No. 1 overall pick has recorded a decent season in his six games. So far Garrett has accounted for 5.0 sacks, 11 tackles, 6 assists, and a fumble recovery. He will not be setting any rookie records thanks to the games he missed from injury, but Garrett has certainly made his presence felt in opposing backfields over the past few weeks.

The Browns’ numbers are grim. Cleveland has lost 11 straight games in 2017 and twelve in a row going back to last season. The Browns are 1-26 going back to the beginning of 2016. It gets worse. The club is 4-39 dating back to all of 2015. Every time the team sees rock bottom approaching they manage to fill another shovel full. The point of all that is not to depress you, it’s to underscore the fact that the only through line in the past couple seasons is the Chargers. There is no reason to believe the Browns will win this game other than the fact that it would be funny. The football gods tend to have a pretty sharp sense of humor which makes me think Sunday might be a little more fun than the rest of the season has been.