LA Chargers @ NY Jets (+3.0)
Power rankings: Chargers 12, Jets 16
When the Chargers have the ball: The Chargers offense is 8th in both DVOA and EPA/play. Justin Herbert is 15th in PFF grades, but a far more impressive 4th in ESPN's total QBR metric. He's completing 68.7% of his passes (4.1% above expectation) and gaining 7.5 yards per attempt. In previous years, Herbert's style of play was a conservative, dink and dunk game-manager who emphasized ball safety over anything else. Herbert led the league in turnover worthy play ratio (from PFF) in each of the last two seasons, with rates of 1.6% and 1.7%, respectively. In comes new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore - who correctly sees that Herbert's impressive arm strength is capable of far more than game manager - and suddenly Herbert's average depth of target increases to 8.6 and his deep passing rate (20+ yards) increase to 13.9%. The results have been mixed -- his PFF grade is the lowest it's been since he entered the league (currently a 74) and his turnover worthy play ratio of 3.2% is a career worst (this ranks 20th in the NFL). Part of the problem is the offensive line, which is struggling outside of LT Rashawn Slater, and the health of the receiving core. Keenan Allen remains healthy and productive, but Mike Williams tore his ACL week 3, and Josh Palmer is now on IR with a knee injury. RB Austin Ekeler is known as a capable receiver, but he doesn't run routes the way receivers do -- Ekeler's average depth of target is -1.1 this year, meaning on average he's being targeted a yard behind the line of scrimmage. Outside of Allen and Williams, the next in line for targets are Quintin Johnston, Gerald Everett, Derius Davis, and Donald Parham Jr. Johnston is a rookie 1st rounder out of TCU - a 6'3 215 athletic freak who had his best game last week after securing 5 catches for 50 scoreless yards. Everett and Parham are tight ends, while Davis is a rookie 4th rounder (also out of TCU) with 8 total targets - a 5'8 165 speedster who runs a 4.36 40. The question of whether the rookies can step up remains unanswered for now, leaving the stage primarily to Herbert and Allen. On the ground, Ekeler has faced struggles this season, averaging just 3.7 yards per attempt, with a concerning 2.39 yards per attempt after contact, ranking last in the NFL among 50 qualifiers.
The Jets defense has been making quite an impact this season, ranking 7th in DVOA and 8th in EPA/play. What's particularly interesting is their approach to pass rushing, as they aim to win with just four rushers. This strategy is evident in their league-low blitz rate of 17.1%, yet they're still managing to generate pressure at a solid 33.1% rate, which ranks them 10th in the NFL. This indicates their prowess at winning battles at the line of scrimmage without resorting to the blitz. Their pass rush consists of Bryce Huff and John Franklin-Myers (outside) and Quinnen Williams (inside), all of whom have a 77 PFF grade or better. Williams stands out as the 3rd best tackle per PFF grades, 14th in pressures, 9th in pass rush win rate, and 12th in run stops. Williams, going up against a weak interior lien, should live in the Chargers backfield. The Jets also have a formidable linebacking tandem in CJ Mosley and Quincy Williams, adding strength to their defensive core. Additionally, they boast a strong secondary, led by Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed. This well-rounded defense should make for a compelling matchup against the Chargers' offense.
When the Jets have the ball:
The Jets offense is 29th in DVOA and 31st in EPA/play. Zach Wilson is 30th in PFF grades and 29th in ESPN's total QBR. His completion rate of 58.3% and 6.1 yards per attempt may not be particularly impressive, but he has managed to take care of the football well, ranking 14th in the league in turnover-worthy play ratio. Wilson's recurring issue throughout the season and in previous years has been his difficulty when facing pressure. While there has been some improvement in his performance under pressure, he still ranks 26th in the NFL in PFF grades under these conditions. Unfortunately, the Jets' offensive line, plagued by injuries and poor play, has contributed to Wilson's consistent exposure to pressure, resulting in a pressure rate of 43.4%, the 5th highest in the league. Wilson also contends with a notable number of blitz packages, with a blitz rate of 34.4%, which is the 9th highest in the NFL this year. That said, his numbers remain relatively consistent whether he's blitzed or not. Wilson also doesn't have much to throw to outside of Garrett Wilson, who's 65 targets are more than double the next plyer on the team. Next up his Allen Lazard, who has 29 targets, and is currently questionable with a knee injury. The knee injury didn't appear on the injury report till Saturday, which left him limited in practice. The ground game has at least had some positive signs - Breece Hall's 5.7 yards per attempt is a welcome sight, particularly in a season where he's coming off a torn ACL and is operating behind a bad offensive line. Hall's 3.79 yards per attempt after contact is 5th best in the NFL, and his breakaway percentage (rushing yardage on on designed attempts more than 15 yards) of 58.6% is 2nd best in the league. Dalvin Cook may be unhappy with his playing time, but he's gaining just 2.8 yards per attempt with a 54.4 PFF grade.
The Chargers defense is equally bad, ranking 28th in DVOA and 29th in EPA/play. Despite having a strong pass rushing trio (Khlail Mack, Joey Bosa, and Tuli Tuipulotu), they're still struggling to generate consistent pressure. They currently rank 31st in ESPN's pass rush win rate metric and sit at 19th in pressure rate, despite blitzing fairly often, ranking 13th in the league. Bosa's health could be partially to blame - he missed weeks 4 and 5 due to hamstring/toe issues, then easily had his best game of the season last week against the Bears, accumulating 5 pressures and 3 hurries - although it's worth noting that the Bears have one of the worst offensive lines in football. DE Tuipulotu is a rookie 2nd rounder out of USC who is 2nd on the team with 22 pressures and has been strong against the run. The Chargers other areas of strength: LB Eric Kendricks, CB Asante Samuel Jr, S Derwin James, and S Alohi Gilman. Their issues are due to a number of soft spots and weaknesses that opposing offenses can pick on - CB Mike Davis, currently 3rd on the team in total snaps, is allowing a 120.8 passer rating into his coverage and has committed 6 penalties. Ja'Sir Taylor, a 2022 6th rounder who typically covers the slot, has a 49.1 coverage grade from PFF. The Jets need to keep Wilson's pocket clean and pick on the Chargers weak corners.