If the minute Aaron Rodgers went down with an injury, someone said the Jets would have a better record than the Chargers heading into their week nine matchup, I don’t think anyone, including Jets fans, would believe them. Yet, here we are on the day of their Monday Night Football matchup, and the Jets are 4-3, while the Chargers are 3-4.
In order to get back to .500, the Chargers will need a lot of help from Austin Ekeler, and I think he can impact this game in a big way as a pass catcher.
The week eight matchup between the Giants and Jets might go down as one of the hardest games to watch this season. Unless you’re a fan of punting, the lack of offense in this game made it nearly impossible to sit through. Zach Wilson’s last two drives of the game resulted in the game-tying and game-winning field goals to give the Jets a 13-10 win. Since the game ended with 23 total points, there were more punts than points, as the teams combined for 24 punts.
Unsurprisingly, with an offensive performance that included 11 punts, the Jets finished the day with a (-20.78) EPA. That marked the second straight game in which New York picked up a win while also finishing with a negative offensive EPA. While this certainly is not a good look for Zach Wilson and his offense, it speaks volumes about the Jets' defense, who have produced a positive EPA in all three games of their winning streak.
The Jets defense has been one of the best in the league at defending the pass, entering this matchup ranked 6th in passing yards allowed per game and 4th in yards allowed per completion. No opponent has managed to throw for 300 yards in a game against the Jets secondary, which is impressive since they’ve played the likes of Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, and Dak Prescott.
Their run of playing high-end quarterbacks will continue tonight with Justin Herbert lined up under center for the Chargers. This sets up the most exciting matchup in this game since LA gets most of their offense from the passing game. Herbert is averaging the 8th most pass attempts per game this season, resulting in him throwing for the 7th most passing yards and 7th highest average of yards gained per pass attempt.
The Chargers offense comes into this matchup without one of their critical weapons since wideout Josh Palmer will miss the game due to injury. This means Herbert must lean more on Keenan Allen and Quentin Johnston, but the problem with that is the aforementioned Jets pass defense. With Palmer out and his two primary targets strapped with tough matchups, Herbert will need help in the passing game from his backfield mate, Austin Ekeler.
Ekeler’s receiving yards total is currently set at 32.5, and I’ll be taking the over for my play at (-117). In the four games he’s played this season, Ekeler has gone over this total in three of them, and he is coming off a game in which he had seven catches for 94 yards. The Chargers' wideouts will not have a lot of breathing room tonight, so we could see the team’s screen percentage increase from 9.90%.
If there is one area with the passing game that the Jets have struggled with, it’s limiting running backs. New York was allowing the 6th most receptions and receiving yards to running backs entering this week, according to FantasyPros. With LA already thin on wide receivers, if they want to move the ball through the air, Ekeler will need to be a big piece of that.
Austin Ekeler Over 32.5 Receiving Yards (-117) on BetRivers