NFL Monday Night Football: Saints/Chargers Preview

by Big Al Staff

Monday Night Football on ESPN features two teams that need a victory.

For New Orleans, a win gets them back over .500 while tying them with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in first place in the NFC South with a 3-2 record. The Saints’ Super Bowl aspirations took a hit when they lost on the road in Las Vegas to the Raiders and then followed that up with a loss at home to the Green Bay Packers. New Orleans righted the ship last week with a 35-29 win at Detroit. But even that effort drew question marks as they spotted the Lions a 14-0 lead before scoring touchdowns on five straight drives before having to hold on to pull that game out after a late Detroit rally.

Drew Brees completed 19 of 25 passes in that game for 246 yards with two touchdown passes as he continues to fight off critics that suggest his arm strength has diminished to the point where it is holding back the Saints’ offense. His top target, Michael Thomas, has been out the last three games with an ankle injury. He was questionable for this game before the team suspended him for this contest on Sunday for getting involved in a physical altercation with a teammate.

Thomas’ absence leaves the Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith as the top two wide receivers for Brees in this game. Sanders had his best performance in a Saints’ uniform last week by catching four balls for 56 yards with a touchdown. Smith has nine receptions in his previous two games for 128 yards.

New Orleans has some other injuries of note for this game. Their depth at wide receiver is further stretched with Deonte Harris out for this game with a hamstring. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins is out with his shoulder injury. Left guard Andrus Peat and tight end Jared Cook are questionable with ankle injuries. Defensive end Marcus Davenport (elbow) and cornerback Marston Lattimore (hamstring) are also questionable.

Los Angeles has lost three games in a row after blowing a 24-7 lead in the second quarter last week at Tampa Bay in their 38-31 loss to the Buccaneers. The Chargers have been competitive in these losses. They lost in overtime by a 23-20 score at home to Kansas City in another game where they were once winning. In their 21-16 loss to Carolina two weeks ago, they were in a position to take the lead late in that game before a fumbled lateral pass in that game ruined their potential touchdown scoring drive. Despite losing three of their four games, Los Angeles is outgaining their opponents by 26.5 yards per game.

Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn announced that rookie Justin Herbert would remain the starting quarterback even when Tyrod Taylor was healthy enough to return to action. Their first-round draft pick has demonstrated he is ready for NFL competition in his three games playing for the injured Taylor. Herbert is completing 72% of his passes for 931 yards and an 8.7 yards-per-attempt average. Herbert has thrown five touchdown passes, but he also has three interceptions.

Injuries also hang over the Chargers with running back Austin Ekeler out indefinitely with left hamstring and knee issues along with defensive stalwarts Melvin Ingram and Derwin James on their injured reserve. Los Angeles’ offensive line will be once again missing right guard and right tackle Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga, who did not play last week with injuries. Wide receiver Mike Williams is questionable with a knee injury that kept him out last week while the defensive end Joey Bosa is questionable with a knee injury. Williams and Bosa did participate in limited workouts by the end of the week.

Brees has won all three of his games as a Saint playing against this Chargers team that drafted him.  BetAnySports has New Orleans as a 7.5-point favorite with the total set at 50. Kickoff takes place shortly after 8:15 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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