Browns vs. Chargers: Full San Diego Game Preview

Marcelo Villa@@_marcelovillaFeatured Columnist IIIOctober 1, 2015

Browns vs. Chargers: Full San Diego Game Preview

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    The San Diego Chargers host the Cleveland Browns in Week 4, desperate to bounce back from two consecutive road losses.

    Last Sunday, the Chargers were blown out by the Minnesota Vikings 31-14, and they lost to the Cincinnati Bengals 24-19 the week before then. Asked if Sunday's game against the Browns was a must-win, head coach Mike McCoy told reporters in Wednesday's news conference: "Every game is a must-win. ... But the next game is always the most important." Clearly, the Chargers are focused on their next opponent, who is coming off a loss of its own.

    The Browns had a second win in their sights last Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, but Josh McCown was intercepted with a little over 30 seconds left in the game, and Cleveland came up short 27-20 at home. Despite chants by the crowd for Johnny Manziel, Browns head coach Mike Pettine named McCown his starting quarterback for the second straight week, per Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot.

    Both teams are hoping to shake off losses and break even at 2-2 on the season. For more on Sunday's matchup, click next.

    Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego

    Time: 4:05 p.m. ET (1:05 p.m. PT)

    TV: CBS

Week 3 Results and Recap

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    Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
    AFC WestWLT
    Denver Broncos300
    Oakland Raiders210
    San Diego Chargers120
    Kansas City Chiefs120

    Nothing seemed to go right for the Chargers in a 31-14 loss to the Vikings, but things really got out of hand in the second half. Trailing 10-7 at the start of the third quarter, San Diego was forced to punt on its first two drives while Minnesota produced touchdowns, swelling the lead to 24-7.

    Then, Philip Rivers threw a pick-six in the red zone, and his day was done shortly after. Backup Kellen Clemens was inserted into the game with 8:37 to play, and he concluded the scoring with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen.

    Rivers was sacked four times, one of which caused him to fumble and the defense recovered. San Diego's quarterback has accounted for six of the team's eight giveaways this season.

    On defense, the Chargers were no match for Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, who gained 126 yards on 20 carries and scored twice. It was an ugly loss and one the Bolts hope to forget when they play Cleveland on Sunday.

News and Notes

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    OG Johnnie Troutman Placed on Injured Reserve, Out for Season

    Troutman, a 15-game starter at right guard last season, had hoped to come back from the forearm injury he suffered in the preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys, but his season is officially over before it began.

    Troutman, who was inactive for the first three games, has been placed on injured reserve, the team announced on Tuesday. A fifth-round pick of the Chargers in 2012, Troutman started 24 of 29 games played and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

    Chargers Sign C J.D. Walton, Promote OT Tyreek Burwell from Practice Squad

    With injuries mounting on the offensive line, the Chargers announced a pair of signings Tuesday. Walton, a six-year veteran, started 16 games for the New York Giants last season and will help bolster depth at center, where starter Chris Watt has been dealing with a lingering groin injury.

    Burwell, an undrafted rookie out of Cincinnati, was originally on San Diego's active roster to start the season but was waived in Week 2 to make room for tight end John Phillips. With left tackle King Dunlap and swing tackle Chris Hairston suffering injuries last week, Burwell might be asked to play sooner rather than later.

    Keenan Allen Off to Record-Breaking Start

    As Chargers.com managing editor Ricky Henne wrote Monday, "No player in franchise history has caught more passes through three games than Allen, as his 29 receptions are four more than Tony Martin tallied in 1995." Allen's 29 receptions are tied for third-most this season with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, and he sits sixth in receiving yards with 315.

    Allen should be able to add to his growing total this Sunday against the Browns secondary, which allowed eight catches and 134 yards to first-round rookie Amari Cooper last week.

Latest Injury News

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press
    PlayerPositionInjury
    King DunlapOTConcussion
    Orlando FranklinOGAnkle
    Jacoby JonesWRAnkle
    Craig MagerCBHamstring
    Chris WattCGroin
    Tourek WilliamsOLBFoot
    Jahleel AddaeSSAnkle
    Ladarius GreenTEConcussion
    Brandon FlowersCBKnee
    D.J. FlukerOGAnkle, Chest
    Chris HairstonOGAnkle, Knee
    Jason VerrettCBFoot

    According to the team injury report, the following players did not practice Wednesday: Dunlap, Franklin, Jones, Mager, Watt and Williams. Addae and Green were limited, and the rest were full participants despite being dinged up.

    With three-fifths of the offensive line missing, the starting five for the early portion of Wednesday's practice open to reporters had Burwell at left tackle, Kenny Wiggins at left guard and Trevor Robinson at center, per ESPN.com's Eric Williams. If Hairston is fit to play Sunday, he could step in at left tackle or left guard.

    In the secondary, only Mager is not expected to play Sunday, per Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Flowers, who was a late scratch for the Minnesota game, is on track to play this week, and so is Verrett after he was limited against the Vikings. The same could be true for Addae, who returned to practice for the first time since he was injured in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions.

    Green is working his way back from the concussion he suffered in Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was his second one this month, so the team opted to play it safe by sitting him out last week.

    Jones has missed the last two games and continues to be sidelined with the ankle injury he suffered in Week 1, and Williams is reportedly meeting with a specialist about his foot, per Gehlken.

    All injury information courtesy of Chargers.com.

Key Matchups

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    Chargers WR Keenan Allen vs. Browns CB Joe Haden

    Allen goes up against a good one in Haden, a two-time Pro Bowler and former first-round pick of the Browns in 2010. This will be their first meeting, but Haden is nevertheless impressed by Allen, telling reporters in a conference call, courtesy of Chargers.com: "He’s very, very good. He’s smooth. He’s definitely good with the ball in his hands, runs good routes, he’s very crisp (and) he’s an all-around really good receiver. I like his game. I’ve never played against him before so just studying him on tape has been good."

    Haden has struggled through the first three games, earning a minus-5.9 in pass coverage from Pro Football Focus, but he is still considered among the league's elite cornerbacks.

    Chargers CB Brandon Flowers vs. Browns WR Travis Benjamin

    Though small in stature (5'10", 175 lbs), Benjamin has been Cleveland's big-play receiver this season, averaging a league-best 24.9 yards per catch. He also leads the team in touchdown receptions with four through the first three games.

    The Bengals beat Flowers over the top for three touchdowns in Week 2, and the Browns could be looking for something similar with Benjamin.

Matchup X-Factor

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    Chargers X-Factor of the Week: Melvin Gordon

    Gordon has a favorable matchup in Week 4 against the league's worst run defense; the Browns are giving up close to five yards per carry this season. Last week, Raiders running back Latavius Murray set a new career high for rushing yards with 139 against Cleveland.

    The Chargers continue to limit Gordon's workload, but this might be the week for a considerable increase in carries. 

Prediction: Chargers 27, Browns 13

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    According to OddsShark.com, the Chargers opened as seven-point favorites with a predicted score of 27-13. I'll tag along in saying they'll win this one, thus ending their two-game losing streak. The Bolts looked awful on the road, but returning to Qualcomm Stadium should do them some good.

    The Browns won't roll over by any means, but they have come up short in five consecutive road games dating back to last season. San Diego should be able to control the tempo on offense with its run game, and Cleveland's 25th-ranked offense shouldn't cause too much trouble for the defense.

    Prediction: Chargers 27, Browns 13