Atlanta FalconsLos Angeles Chargers

Falcons vs Chargers Preview

Austin Ekeler Chargers
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler has been amazing this year, can he keep it up agains the Falcons

The 2022 NFL season has already produced some surprises and plenty of drama, and there’s still lots more to come. Bookmakers and sports fans are always looking ahead and one of NFL sports betting’s appeals is the fascinating matchups that occur throughout the season. 

Interconference games are always a good opportunity to evaluate the relative merits of the AFC and the NFC. In week nine, we can look forward to a fascinating battle between two teams that have both had relatively strong starts to the 2022 season. 

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Falcons keeping pace with Bucs

It has been six seasons since the Atlanta Falcons last won the NFC South, and relatively little was expected from them this year. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were once again expected to dominate while the Falcons continued with their rebuild. 

If last season the franchise had been in denial about their need to refresh and go in a different direction, there was no avoiding it this summer, as they finally said farewell to Matt Ryan – and made an ultimately failed attempt to bring DeShaun Watson to Atlanta. 

By common agreement, they had a good draft, but this season looked as though it would be all about bringing on some of their young stars and figuring out whether they had a franchise quarterback in the ranks. 

Marcus Mariota has been given the first chance to stake his claim to that position and while he has so far been a middle-of-the-pack performer, the Falcons have made a solid start. 

They opened the season with back-to-back losses to the Saints and the Rams, but the average margin of defeat across those games was 2.5 points. They immediately bounced back with wins over Seattle and Cleveland, keeping pace with the Bucs through the first six weeks of the season. 

Chargers emerging as challengers

With 2020’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert leading the offense, the Chargers came agonizingly close to getting out of a tough division last season, and the franchise was aggressive in providing the additional defensive quality that was clearly needed. 

Bringing in Khalil Mack and JC Jackson certainly ticked that box, but at the same time, the rest of the AFC West has also strengthened. Denver Broncos have Russell Wilson and the Las Vegas Raiders snatched Davante Adams from the Green Bay Packers. 

Analysts are in agreement that this is the toughest division in the NFL, and it was felt that the Chargers would have to improve even further just to stand still. 

Victory over the Raiders in their opening game sent a strong statement to the rest of the division, and although there was anarrow defeat against the Chiefs and a more surprising loss to the Jaguars, the Chargers have made a solid start to their season. 

They have been helped by the fact that the Raiders and the Broncos have struggled far more than anyone expected, allowing the Chargers to emerge as the main rivals to the Chiefs.However, Kansas City remain the strong favorites to ultimately win the division. 

Head-to-head

This is one of the oldest matchups in the NFL, with the first game being played back in 1973. However, there have only actually been 11 games between these teams, due to them being in different conferences. 

In the first game, the Atlanta Falcons beat the San Diego Chargers 41-0 at the San Diego Stadium. Both teams missed out on the playoffs that season as the Falcons finished second in the NFC West and the Chargers ended with a 2-11-1 record in the AFC West. 

Although the two teams have only met infrequently since that game, the Falcons continued to dominate the rivalry until the 2010s, winning seven of their next eight meetings. Their only loss was a narrow 10-7 win for the Chargers in Atlanta in 1988. 

In recent years, however, the Chargers have had better results from this rivalry. In 2016, the year when the Falcons reached the Super Bowl, the Chargers pulled off a notable 33-30 victory in overtime at the Georgia Dome, although they eventually finished at the bottom of the AFC West. 

Their last meeting, in 2020, was similarly close. Both teams had losing records going into week 12, but the Chargers, meeting Atlanta for the first time since their move to LA, won 20-17 at the SoFi Stadium, beginning a run of four wins to end the season. 

Key players to watch

As you’d expect for a franchise that is in transition, Atlanta have been a mixed bag so far. Mariota has led the offense relatively well, but both the offense and the defense have been statistically below average. 

Offensively, they have depended on the run more than the pass, and the absence of Cordarrelle Patterson has made them less effective in that area. Before his injury, Patterson was one of the top running backs in the NFL, and if he is back in time for this game, he could have a major role to play. 

Drafted in 2020, Justin Herbert is one of the most inexperienced quarterbacks in the NFL, but he has already established himself as a potential elite performer. So far this season, he has gone up against Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes, matching them both.

Despite their defensive reinforcement, the Chargers rely heavily on their offense and the young quarterback leading it. 

Where the game will be won and lost

On paper, Atlanta is not a match for the Chargers. Their defense is mediocre, while offensively, they are over-reliant on the running game. However, NFL games are not decided on paper. 

The Falcons have shown a useful ability in exceedingexpectations, beating the spread in each of their first five games of the season. This makes them tough and dangerous opponents. 

The key to success for the Chargers will be to stay composed until the very last second and give Herbert the protection he needs to control the game. 

Damond Talbot

NFL Draft Diamonds was created to assist the underdogs playing the sport. We call them diamonds in the rough. My name is Damond Talbot, I have worked extremely hard to help hundreds of small school players over the past several years, and will continue my mission. We have several contributors on this site, and if they contribute their name and contact will be in the piece above. You can email me at nfldraftdiamonds@gmail.com

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