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Week 8 Game preview: Bears-Chargers

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Is this a get right game against a 2-5 squad or a recipe for more disaster?

Los Angeles Chargers v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Both teams meeting at Soldier Field Sunday imagined their seasons going in a completely different direction.

Each squad was in the playoffs last year and had a lot of reason for optimism coming into the year that just hasn’t materialized.

Most people reading this post will understand and know what the Bears’ issues are (run game, playcalling, quarterback), but the Chargers are mostly struggling with injuries.

They’ve lost three starting offensive linemen, Melvin Gordon hasn’t been himself and they’ve been unable to score enough points.

So it’s a battle between two bad teams, but it should be winnable for the Bears.

Los Angeles Chargers

SB Nation site: Bolts from the Blue

Game day/time/TV: Sunday, noon CT, FOX

Record: 2-5, third in AFC West

Last week: 23-20 loss to Tennessee

Bears all-time record against: 7-5

Last meeting: The Bears and Chargers met on Monday Night Football as two-win teams in week 9 of 2015.

The Bears dropped into a 13-0 hole after a Danny Woodhead touchdown catch and a Jason Verrett 68-yard pick six of Jay Cutler.

But Chicago fought back and touchdowns from Martellus Bennett and Jeremy Langford brought the Bears back.

Finally, in the final three minutes, Jay Cutler hit Zach Miller for one of the prettiest plays of either’s Bears career for a Bears 22-19 win.

Historical match up: There really aren’t any historical or significant meetings between the two. So I’ll tell you that in week 11 of the ‘99 season, when the Bears went to San Diego and Jim Miller bested Jim Harbaugh in overtime for a 23-20 win.

Miller threw for 357 yards and Marcus Robinson and Bobby Engram both went over 100 yards receiving and Curtis Enis had one touchdown run.

Injury report: The Chargers listed 11 players on their Wednesday injury report:

Full participation - K Michael Badgley (groin), LB Uchenna Nwosu (hip), LB Denzel Perryman (ankle)

Limited participation - FB Derek Watt (knee), DE Melvin Ingram III (hamstring), RB Justin Jackson (calf), NT Damien Square (hamstring)

Did not participate - S Nasir Adderley (hamstring), DT Cortez Broughton (illness), DT Justin Jones (shoulder), NT Brandon Mebane (knee)

Offense: The Chargers come into the game ranked 23rd in points but 14th in yards.

The disparity in their offense is obvious as they’re third in passing yards but 27th in rushing yards.

Led by the veteran Philip Rivers (66.3 cmp. pct./2,114 yds./11 TD/6 INT), the Chargers offense has been struggling.

Their top playmaker hasn’t been stars Kennan Allen (44 rec./564 yds./3 TD) or Melvin Gordon (36 att./81 yds./0 TD in three games), it’s Austin Ekeler (69 att./248 yds/3 TD and 49 rec./488 yds./4 TD).

Ekeler filled in nicely for Gordon during his hold out and is the team’s leader in receptions and just behind Allen in yards. He leads the team in receiving and overall TDs.

Now that Hunter Henry (18/257/2) is back, expect him to be a popular target. He’s had 100 and 97 yards in his first two games back from injury

Also getting in the Chargers’ air attack are Mike Williams (23/350/0). Gordon is about the only other player of note here (9/34/1) as Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman and Justin Jackson are all hurt.

They’re passing on 62 percent of their plays. They remain efficient on third downs with a 48.9 percent conversion rate, which is the third best in the league but aren’t translating in the red zone, scoring touchdowns on just 47.8 percent of their trips inside the 20, ranking 25th.

Defense: The Chargers rank 10th in points allowed and 11th in yards allowed.

Their passing defense ranks fifth while their rushing defense ranks 21st.

The best defensive player for Los Angeles is Joey Bosa (5 sacks/1 FF/6 TFL/10 QB hits). Melvin Ingram (1 sack/3 TFL/3 QB hits) shouldn’t be forgotten, he’s missed the last few games but is practicing this week and could return.

Veteran LB Thomas Davis (54 tkls/1 sack/2 TFL/2 QB hits) is still making plays.

Rayshawn Jenkins (2 INT/2 PD) is patrolling the secondary with Casey Hayward (1 INT/4 PD) and Desmond King (1 PD/1 FF/1 FR). Overall, the Chargers have five players with at least one interception, a testament to the passing defense.

Although, the Chargers are allowing 4.2 yards per rush on the ground.

They have allowed 12 passing touchdowns, which is 21st and their red zone defense is struggling, ranking 28th with opponents converting a staggering 66.7 percent of their trips inside the 20 into touchdowns.

Key match ups: It really comes down to if the Mitchell Trubisky can find holes in a Chargers secondary that’s played well. It’s going to be tough.

I can’t say that Chicago is going to need to find running lanes against a pretty generous Chargers run defense simply because they don’t seem to be interested in attempting to establish the run.

The offensive line is going to have its hands full if Ingram plays as he and Bosa form a very tough pass rushing duo.

On defense, the Bears have to take advantage of an absolutely decimated Chargers offensive line that is down at least three starters by my count. Khalil Mack has to have a huge game, Leonard Floyd has to step up and Roy Robertson-Harris needs to play well in Akiem Hicks’ spot.

Limiting plays by Allen and Ekeler will be the keys to slowing down the Chargers’ limited offense, but don’t let Gordon get going either because even though he’s off to a slow start, he’s still very talented.

What to watch for: Is there any signs of life? Any fight? Cohesiveness? The Bears are at an absolute low point and things will only continue to go sideways and get worse and worse if there is no sign of life offensively and the defense is continually put in bad spots.

Key stats: The Chargers are even-keeled: They are scoring 20 points per game while allowing 20.1 points per game, They’ve allowed 13 sacks and have 14 sacks of their own.

They’ve scored 11 passing touchdowns and allowed 12. They have the same number of interceptions as their opponents (6).

Even penalties, they have 45 while their opponents have 47.

The Bears have just one sack in their last two games, after having 17 in their first four games.

Chicago didn’t have a turnover last week for the second time this season (week one vs. Green Bay was the other)