The Los Angeles Chargers have decided what their future is all about, and it is now. Justin Herbert has shown enough in his three starts that he is going to be the #1 quarterback for the rest of the season. And he will lead the Bolts against the New Orleans Saints in Monday Night Football, which begins at 8:15 PM ET at the Superdome.
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The Saints were dealt an unpleasant blow over the weekend. They were hoping that wide receiver Michael Thomas, who caught 149 passes last season (an NFL record) would be able to return from a high ankle sprain. But although it appears he is healthy enough, he was declared to be out after an altercation with teammate CJ Gardner-Johnson, a defensive back who was drafted in the fourth round out of Florida last year.
Elsewhere on the injury front, the Saints will be missing cornerback Janoris Jenkins, but Marshon Lattimore looks like he is on track to play. There are still some questions about the availability of offensive linemen Andrus Peat and Ryan Ramczyk. They are hopeful of having defensive end Marcus Davenport, who is banged up with elbow and toe injuries.
Drew Brees is completing 71% of his passes. But he is in the middle of the pack in terms of yards per attempt, and he is at the bottom of the league in “Air Yards” per pass, so he is safety-first with it as it has often been in his career. There is no escaping that this New Orleans is less threatening without Thomas in the lineup, but the Saints have nonetheless scored 30 or more points in three of four games.
In the Monday Night Football betting odds on this game at BetAnySports, the Saints are favored by a touchdown:
New Orleans Saints -7 (+100)
Los Angeles Chargers +7 (-120)
Over 50 points -110
Under 50 points -110
Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn had to act quickly to replace Tyrod Taylor, who had punctured a lung, and threw Herbert in with the Chiefs, where he almost engineered a win. He had explained that once Taylor could play again, he’d get his job back, but he has declared Herbert the starter for the rest of the season.
This is a very banged-up team. The Chargers might be missing offensive linemen Trai Turner and Bryan Bulaga. And running back Austin Ekeler is on injured reserve. But the bigger problem may be on the defensive side. They’ll be without the likes of defensive end Melvin Ingram, defensive tackle Justin Jones, cornerback Chris Harris Jr., safety Derwin James and linebacker Drue Tranquill. That’s a lot of talent to be unavailable. And defensive end Joey Bosa, who would be counted on to provide a pass rush in Ingram’s absence, is hurting with ankle and biceps injuries. The good news is that wide receiver Mike Williams, who’s got a hamstring injury, is expected back in the lineup.
The interesting thing about Herbert is how quickly he has asserted himself. He started out as one of those QB’s who was supposed to riding the bench for a year while he observed and learned. But he does not seem intimidated at all about the situation. Not only is he averaging 8.7 yards an attempt, his numbers go up when he is pressured – to the tune of 73.2% (best in the league in that situation) and 11.1 yards an attempt. Charger receivers are second in the NFL in yards after the catch per completion (6.9).
Without Ekeler, the available backs for the Bolts (Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley) average 3.1 yards a carry between them. Thus far, the team has run the ball 47% of the time, but we would expect this offense to become much more pass-heavy going forward. And that means we wouldn’t look for a lot of clock-chewing. But we DO expect Herbert to play the role of the gunslinger.
Sure, we have some reservations about how “explosive”the Saints can be without Thomas. But once again Brees is a 70% passer, and Alvin Kamara is by far the best back in this game, running from scrimmage or receiving. We think this Monday night bash is headed OVER the total.
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