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Behind Enemy Lines: Chargers vs. Texans

We go behind enemy lines with Michael Peterson of Bolts from the Blue.

NFL: DEC 26 Chargers at Texans Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Chargers come back to NRG Stadium this Sunday. The game sets up as a rematch of their stunning week 16 loss to the Houston Texans in the 2021 season. While playoff hopes cannot necessarily be boiled down to one game in a 17 game season, many observers assumed the Chargers would win that one and blamed that loss for them narrowly missing the playoffs last season.

Michael Peterson of Bolts from the Blue was kind enough to spend a few minutes with us to discuss the upcoming rematch on Sunday. The Chargers are coming in with a 1-2 record after tough defeats to the Kansas City Chiefs and Jacksonville Jaguars. They are dealing with a whole host of injuries early in the season and that is where Michael and I opened up our conversation.

We saw the Justin Herbert injury on TNF. How has he been progressing and what is his long term prognosis? Out of all of the injuries in the early going, who do you think the Bolts will miss the most?

Herbert has been progressing rather well since that unfortunate night. He was very limited leading up to the Jaguars game and managed to come away as healthy as one could expect. For the remainder of the season, it’s going to come down to pain tolerance and how much Justin can manage each week. Some weeks he may have to deal with more while some weeks he might feel pretty dang good. It’s an injury that he’ll have to wait until the offseason to fully heal as it requires an extended period of rest and relaxation. He’s simply not going to find that during the season.

Of the major injuries to hit the team thus far, the biggest one that will affect the team the most is probably the loss of Rashawn Slater. I mean, it’s tough to replace an All-Pro player who starts at one of the most important positions on the football field. If the Chargers were struggling to block and pass protect before his injury, I don’t see how it’ll ever get much better without him.

What do you see as the key for the Bolts to get revenge for their Week 16 defeat to the Texans last season?

Honestly? I’d say they simply need to play up to their potential. The Chargers have way too much talent on their team to continue underwhelming, especially on offense. Joe Lombardi has been far too conservative through the first three weeks of the season, and that was also the case before Herbert’s injury. After he came out without any setbacks against the Jaguars, Lombardi needs to start fast on offense to help the Chargers build plenty of momentum before the second half which is usually where you start to see the team slow down, which is a whole other issue they need to fix.

If the Chargers can play a solid four quarters of football, they should be able to come away with that revenge you spoke of.

Khalil Mack is the biggest name to join the Chargers this season. Who are some new faces we might not have heard of, but should know before Sunday’s game?

The pair of defensive tackles in the middle of the defense. Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson have both helped the Chargers’ run defense go from the basement of the league last year to one of the best this season. Another name I have to throw out there is slot cornerback Bryce Callahan. He did a heck of a job shutting out Hunter Renfrow during their win over the Raiders in week one and he’s played solid ball over the past two weeks, as well. All three of these guys are starters, but have yet to really add some star power to their names. Despite that, I predict all three will play a big role on Sunday if the Chargers hope to leave Houston with a victory.

From the outside looking in, what is your impression of the Texans? How do you see Sunday’s game going?

After three weeks, the reality is that they’re a winless team that hasn’t shown much to think that this week’s matchup with the Chargers won’t be somewhat lopsided. However, I’d be an idiot to actually believe it would play out that way, especially after last season’s game between these two. The Texans are scrappy and I believe a lot of their players have massive chips on their shoulders to help turn that franchise around.

The Chargers haven’t been all that great offensively — or at least haven’t been able to keep it consistent — so I could easily see this game being a close one for much longer than most would expect. They’ll be trotting out a rookie left tackle who will be starting his very first game in the NFL. They’re missing a Pro Bowl pass rusher and potentially could be without other notable players. But in the end, I have the Chargers squeaking out with a 24-20 win.

The AFC West is the toughest division in football. You’ve obviously already had key games with the Chiefs and Raiders. Which team in the division scares you more and how do you see the division playing out?

The only team that truly scares me in this division thus far is the Chiefs. Both the Raiders and Broncos have looked pretty bad compared to their preseason expectations. I feel pretty confident that the Chargers could still — despite their injuries — finish second in the division fairly easily. It’s still super early in the season, but early returns on both teams and their first-year head coaches have been super lackluster.

By the end of the season, I’d predict the Chiefs to lead the division, the Chargers to be a close second, and then have the Broncos and Raiders finish third and fourth, respectively. The Raiders will be lucky to finish above .500 at this point if things don’t drastically change.

We wanted to thank Michael again for joining us before the Sunday showdown between the Chargers and the Texans. You can catch Michael’s work at our sister site Bolts from the Blue. You can also follow him on Twitter @Zonetracks. We are looking forward to the matchup tomorrow and wish Michael and the Bolts the best of luck this season, after tomorrow’s game of course.

Be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.