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Big Picture: 10 storylines for Chargers & Cowboys

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The Cowboys need a bounce-back performance in the worst way after getting thumped by the 49ers last Sunday night.

While the extra day might help some, especially dealing with some injuries, the Cowboys are facing a Chargers team that has had plenty of rest, coming off their bye week.

At 2-2, the Chargers are looking for a third straight win and should have some key players coming back to the lineup.

As we get ready for Monday's showdown in LA, here are the 10 big storylines for the week, with five for the Chargers and five for the Cowboys.

Chargers:

1.    Facing Kellen Moore – As soon as Kellen Moore joined the Chargers, we knew this moment would happen at some point. Sure enough, the NFL put these two teams on Monday Night Football as the Cowboys will play their former OC in Moore, who is the play-caller with the Chargers. A former NFL quarterback who started three games for the Cowboys in 2015, Moore was a teammate of Dak, his quarterback coach and later the OC in Dallas before parting ways with the Cowboys this offseason as Mike McCarthy decided to take over the play-calling duties. Currently, the Chargers rank No. 5 in the NFL in total offense while the Cowboys are 17th.

2.    Ekeler ready to return? – Austin Ekeler is one of the more dynamic running backs in the NFL, but he's been out since Week 1 with an ankle injury. There were some thoughts Ekeler might make it back for the last game against the Raiders but he was ultimately ruled out. Now, the Chargers are coming off a bye week and it seems possible Ekeler will be able to practice and then play Monday night.

3.    Is Herbert ready for MVP talk? – Justin Herbert is one of the most prolific passers in the NFL this season, ranked third in the league with a 106.3 QB rating. With just one interception thrown and seven TD passes, Herbert is completing 71.0 of his passes. After the Chargers went 0-2 to start the season, he's help them turn things around with two straight wins heading into the bye week.

4.    Double-trouble pass rush? – The Chargers were without Nick Bosa in the last game against the Raiders but his pass-rushing bookend Khalik Mack found a way to pick up the slack – and then some. Mack entered the game without a sack in the previous three games, but finished with six against the Raiders, becoming the sixth player in NFL history have 6+ sacks in a game.

5.    Chargers need help vs. pass – During the bye week, the Chargers made some changes at cornerback, trading J.C. Jackson to the Patriots. They signed Essang Bassey for depth behind a trio of Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis and Ja'Sir Taylor. In four games, the Chargers rank dead last in the NFL in pass defense, allowing 299.8 yards passing per game.

Cowboys:

1.    Can this team bounce back again? – We thought a 12-point loss to the Cardinals in Week 3 was bad – and it was. But after it seemed as if they had dusted themselves off with a huge win over the Patriots, the Cowboys were smacked back down to Earth again by the 49ers, who dominated in every way, 42-10. The Cowboys are 10-1 following their last 11 losses and average over 35 points per game. So let's see if history repeats itself.

2.    What a week to face Kellen Moore – With the offense having problems, especially in the red zone, it only makes sense this would be the week they face the Chargers, who now have Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator. Moore's offense in LA ranks No. 5 in the league while the Cowboys are 17th. The red-zone issues have been problem for the Cowboys, except for last week's game because the Cowboys never made it inside the 20-yard line for the entire game. Mike McCarthy has been calling the plays for the Cowboys but even though there have been some inconsistencies early, owner/GM Jerry Jones said on Tuesday he has no desire to make any big changes right now.

3.    More injuries to deal with – The Cowboys are likely going to miss a key player from the defense and special teams this week, if not much longer. Leighton Vander Esch is expected miss multiple weeks with a neck injury he suffered last week. Special teams ace C.J. Goodwin, who also plays cornerback, has an arm injury that will likely force him to injured reserve as well. The Cowboys are ultra-thin at linebacker with only Damone Clark and Micah Parsons currently on the roster with LVE. The practice squad includes three linebackers, including Malik Jefferson, who has been elevated to the roster each of the last two games.

4.    Getting CeeDee the ball – CeeDee Lamb's frustrations seem to be evident from the last game, from his sideline antics and short conversations with Dak Prescott, followed by his post-game press conference. Other than his 11-catch game against the Jets in Week 2, Lamb has just 14 receptions in the other four games – recording exactly four catches in each game. Currently, he's on pace to have about 92 catches this year, after his career-high 107 receptions in 2022.

5.    Aubrey continues to shine – Ironically enough, it's the one thing that had many people worried that has turned out to be the most consistent aspect of the team. Rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey has made all 14 of his field goal attempts, becoming just the seventh kicker in NFL history to begin his career with 14 straight makes. The league record is 18, set in 2015 by Travis Coons.

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