FRISCO, Texas – Here are the two big keys I think will make the difference between the Cowboys and the Chargers on Thanksgiving Day.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
There is no question that the strength of this Chargers squad is their defense. Despite their record, they've not been the problem. There is some tremendous talent across the board in Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, Corey Liuget and Casey Hayward.
As a group, they present problems, especially when it comes to attempting to move the ball through the air. As a unit they do a nice job of rushing the passer, which helps their secondary. Gus Bradley is aggressive with his calls and he does an outstanding job of putting his guys in position to make plays. They physically beat up on Buffalo Bills in their previous game. People will say that they had their production against a rookie quarterback, but that's not totally the story. They also got after Blake Bortles in Jacksonville two week before, knocking him around the majority of the game.
Where the Chargers have had their issues is defending the run -- which is surprising. Only New England gives up more yards a carry than the Chargers (4.98 per attempt). With a short week of preparation there is going to be a limited game plan. Having the ability to run the ball is always the best way to play in those situations.
Alfred Morris is coming off a nice night against the Eagles where he was productive in his opportunities. This will only be Morris' third game as a starter and his overall wear and tear for the season is really minimal. Look for Scott Linehan to run the ball early and often in order to keep Ingram and Bosa off his quarterback to secure this victory.
Los Angeles Chargers Win If
The Chargers are the most creative team in the league when it comes to losing games. Nobody has worse luck at finishing out games than them. They've lost six games this season by a total of 18 points -- which includes games against the Eagles and Patriots.
In their game against the Bills, they were able to put everything together in all areas. The offense was consistent moving the ball. Philip Rivers wasn't in many bad down and distance situations, and that allowed him to take advantage of the weapons around him. Keenan Allen finished the game with two touchdowns, while Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler had one each. The Chargers, defensively, had two touchdowns of their own -- a pick-six by Korey Toomer and a fumble return by Melvin Ingram.
The Chargers are capable of playing in this fashion every week, but there always seems to be something that sets them back. Two weeks ago, it was a roughing the passer penalty by Joey Bosa to put the Jaguars in field goal range in the final minute of the game. Before that, it was a Philip Rivers interception against the Patriots at the goal line with only a few seconds left to seal the loss.
For the Chargers to win the game, they will need to prove that they can play back-to-back games where they're not a mistake prone team. Don't do anything that allows the Cowboys to stay in this game. Limit the extra downs and when it comes time to finish them off make sure that's exactly what you do.